Union-Milnerton (Uni-Mil) RFC is the club on everyone’s lips this season. Their first side claimed league honours in the Super League B (SLB), gaining promotion, while their women’s team won their league after thumping Langa’s Busy Bees last week.
Now they are gearing up for the President’s Cup and their campaign kicks off with a tantalising match against the only side that were able to pip their men’s team this year, Bellville RFC.
For captain Edward Theron and his cohorts, facing off against Bellville this weekend will not only be necessary to secure their spot in the cup final but will also be a chance to close the wound that many saw as a slip up on Uni-Mil’s part rather than an outright victory for Bellville.
But, this is all just the start of bigger things to come. Super League A beckons and with it a step-up in preparations. Will the boys in the baby blue hoops have what it takes to make it in the big leagues? That is the new question punters are posing.
“I started captaining Uni-Mil in 2013 after playing in Scotland for many years. We played in Premier League B back then and won it that year. With the WP league restructuring we were promoted to SLB.
“In 2014 we ended in fourth place and won the President’s Cup. Last year we were doing really well right up until the end and ended in fourth place again but lost out in the President’s Cup finals.
“This year our goal was clear from the start. We decided at a pre-season camp that this was our year to take the league. It was a highly competitive season and came right down to the wire where we had Hamlets and Pniel Villagers on our heels right up to the final game, making each match a must-win for us. Winning the league is a feeling I can’t even describe.
“One important thing was that we could never let the results go to our heads and anytime that threatened we had a great group of coaches to bring us back down to earth with a hard training session,” he said.
For coach Isma-eel Dollie, the journey has been one that has seen his side ascend from the dregs to now finally be on the cusp of playing in what is arguably the country’s toughest and most prestigious club league.
Moving forward, he hopes that the climbing of league ranks will see his player base swell and hopes that sponsors will be eager to jump onboard the Uni-Mil vision.
“Players have come and gone over the years but the core values of the club have remained the same.
“We are family orientated and focus on respect, honesty and an enjoyment of the game. When it comes to player management we need to provide guidance and gain their trust.
“Players often come with social issues that are unrelated to rugby and managing that effectively can have positive ramifications on their performance on the field. This is something we feel has been an important aspect in winning the league.
“For next year we are faced with a mixture of nervous excitement and we know it will be tough every week. Player and coaching recruitment, planning and preparation as well as conditioning and nutrition will all be crucial.
“We are hoping to attract players that live in our feeding area. All the schools in the area should start sending their kids our way as we make our way into the best league in South Africa.
“Playing in the Gold Cup on Supersport with the best clubs from around the country is not impossible and who knows what the future holds,” said Dollie.
Before they can even think of the effort of stepping up, though, their sights will be firmly set on this weekend’s match and making sure they get a chance to play on the hallowed grounds of Newlands in the finals, set to be played there on Heritage Day, Saturday September 24.
“Besides winning the league the other goal we set for ourselves at the beginning of the season was to win the President’s Cup. I’ll be telling the boys the same thing I always tell them. Be honest, work hard and keep to your structures. If we soak up the pressure in the first 15 to 20 minutes, the opportunities will open for us to hit back,” said Theron.