STARVED passionate rugby followers have something to applaud following the bouncing back of the rebranded Intercity League, formerly known as the National Rugby League (NRL).
The rebranded and expanded Zimbabwe Rugby Union (ZRU) Intercity League is set to kick off on Saturday following its lengthy absence due to lack of funding in 2014.
At a clubs meeting held on 1 April in Kwekwe, clubs agreed that the league would kick off while discussions for potential partnerships continue.
The new Intercity League will have 11 teams that will take part in the 2017 season. The rebranded league will have 11 teams, these being Mutare Sports Club, Harare Sports Club, Gweru Sports Club, Old Miltonians, Old Hararians, Old Georgians, Old Johanians, Western Panthers, Matabeleland Warriors, Police Defenders and Police Bulldogs.
On the format to be used for the Intercity League, ZRU said the teams would play each other twice with the top four teams going into the semifinals then the winners heading into the final. a�?The rebranded and expanded Zimbabwe Rugby Union Intercity League is set to kick off on the 15th of April with an array of derby fixtures taking place. At a clubs meeting held in Kwekwe on Saturday 1 April, clubs agreed that the league will kick off while discussions for possible partnerships continue,a��a�� read a statement from ZRU.
The teams will play each other twice with the top four teams making it through to the semi-finals and the winners to the finals.
The league will be played over 24 weeks, 22 weeks of round robin and a week of semi-finals and the finals week.
ZRU said the bottom three teams would be demoted but there would not be any promotion with eight teams to make up the structure in 2018, which is aimed at making the league competitive. The relegated teams would take part in the proposed Intercity Division Two League.
According to the opening fixture schedule, Mutare Sports Club are at home against Gweru Sports Club, Matabeleland Warriors clash with Police Bulldogs in one of the two matches lined up at Hartsfield Rugby Ground on the day with the other featuring OMs and Panthers. Two matches are at Harare Sports Club where the home team entertain OGs while OH meet OJs.
During its peak between 2011 and 2013, the NRL played a massive part in preparing various national teams to compete in international tournaments.
The countrya��s flagship national rugby team, the Sables, rose in world rankings between that period and almost qualified for the 2015 World Cup. It is for this reason that ZRU believe that the reintroduction of an Intercity League is essential not only for the national teams but the game in its entirety.
a�?At its peak, the National Rugby League assisted a number of national teams prepare for their various assignmentsa��and also helped the team rise on the World Rugby rankings from 52 at inception of the league to 30 when the league abruptly stopped. It is in light of these successes that ZRU believe that the reintroduction of the Intercity (NRL) league is important not only for the national teams but the game as a whole,a�? further read the statement.