Last year will go down in the history books of Border Rugby as a period filled with drama, misfortunes and politics.
The year marked a new era after SA Rugby lifted the union’s suspension in late 2022.
In January, Border rugby affiliates were up in arms with the executive after it failed to meet some of the promises made in the December 3 2022 meeting, including transparency in its operations.
The executive, led by president Zuko Badli, undertook to meet again in early January after the rowdy gathering in December over its six-month delay in interacting with clubs and districts since being elected in June 2022.
Some members wanted to pass a vote of no confidence in the executive but stopped short when Badli admitted to some of the failures and promised to fix them, including ensuring transparency by holding regular gatherings.
There was another point at issue which was discontent over contracts for the Border Bulldogs’ squad ahead of their First Division Currie Cup campaign in February.
Players and coaches were given eight-month contracts, just before the start of the season.
BRU left it late to tie down the players, opening a gap for some to pursue other opportunities.
This was also compounded by the start of the Super 14, as clubs refused to release players to join the Bulldogs’ training camp.
Bulldogs’ head coach Lumumba Currie left midseason to take up the job of assistant Junior Boks coach.
However, the side under the mentorship of interim co-coaches Ludwe Booi and Thembani Mkokelo punched above their weight this year and improved slightly.
The Bulldogs claimed two wins, compared with a winless 2022.
The victories came against international outfits the Welwitschias and the San Clemente Rhinos in the Mzansi Challenge.
This was despite them enduring a dismal Currie Cup campaign, where they did not register a win against SA teams and finished bottom of the log.
The season also marked a historic milestone for Border Bulldogs loose forward and stalwart Onke Sdywell Dubase, as he turned out in his 100th matches for his franchise.
Border Ladies lost their Women’s Premier Division title that they had won in the past two seasons after they were knocked out by Western Province in the semifinal.
The side was hit hard by large-scale player departures, including that of Springbok flank Lusanda Dumke before the season started.
The majority of them were snapped up by the Blue Bulls as the financially strong franchise capitalised on the semi-professional state of women’s rugby.
As if the union’s troubles were not enough, their youth teams found themselves having to dig into their parents’ pockets to cover kit and travel costs for national Grant Khomo and Craven weeks in July.
Despite the hiccups, the Craven Week team, led by Lwazi Zangqa, won two of their three matches.
Selborne College lock forward Zuko Poswa, who took a break from playing rugby in 2022, became the only Border Craven Week player to earn a spot in the SA Schools A team.
East London Police went unbeaten to retain their Border Super League title, the silverware being their second trophy of the year as they were also crowned the Eastern Cape Super 14 champions.
The Border U21 side reached the semifinal of the Saru U21 Shield.
They were beaten in the semis by EP after having to play their last three games in the space of a week.
Komga United were crowned the Border Premier League champions and promoted to the region’s top-flight Super League.
In November, Border Rugby reverted to the tried and tested with veteran mentor David Dobela, as Bulldogs’ coach for the 2024 season.
Dobela has been with Border since the mid-1990s and has had numerous stints in the hot seat.
He will be assisted by Tembani Mkokeli as they attempt to resurrect the Bulldogs.