The Rugby Europe Super Cup is getting ready for its third instalment, and, like the previous two editions, it will bring something new. For 2023, the Czech Bohemia Rugby Warriors are the newest entrants, and there’s also the debut of a new format.
The competition will be played for the first time between eight countries, showcasing a healthy growth that has caught international eyes. As the Black Lion are the two-time champions, the RE Super Cup has been able to challenge itself every new year and will do it again in 2023.
But let’s rewind and remember some of the biggest and most dramatic moments and how some stars view the European Competition.
In September 2021, Rugby Europe debuts officially the Super Cup. Two pools of four, one concerning the Eastern Europe side of the completion (Enisei, Lokomitv, Black Lion, and Tel-Aviv Heat) and a Western Pool (Lusitanos, Castilla y León Iberians, Brussels Devils, and The Delta).
After more than a year and a half of no competitions due to the Covid-19 pandemic, rugby started to flourish once more, and the RE Super Cup was able to debut in full force.
In that first edition, several players shone brightly and have since become standout stars for their countries, such as Rodrigo Marta, Lasha Jaiani, Akaki Tabutsadze, Jerónimo Portela, Daily Limmen, and to name but a few. This is proof of the role the Super Cup could play in the development of more competitive international sides.
After an intense and dramatic end to the pool stage, Lusitanos, Tel Aviv Heat, Black Lion, and the Castilla and León Iberians finished at the top of their pools and qualified for a one-off semifinal. The Lusitanos powered through thanks to the efforts of players like Tomás Appleton, Rodrigo Marta, and Rafael Simões. At the same time, the Black Lion and Iberians produced one of the most memorable games of all time, that you can still watch on the Rugby Europe website.
In the final, the Georgian Black Lion were the victors, defeating the Lusitanos at CAR Jamor in Portugal. The first fireworks ensued, the big trophy was hoisted aloft, and deservedly so.
The Moment of the Season: it’s not easy to pick just one moment, as there was a good amount of dramatic episodes. But if we must pick just one, then it would be the Black Lion lifting the trophy marking the end of a first grand year for the Rugby Europe Super Cup.
In 2022, the Rugby Europe Super Cup welcomed two new teams, the Georgians RC Batumi and the Romanian Bucharest Wolves joined the tournament and started their journey. After a grueling Rugby World Cup qualifying race, the Super Cup was played between September and December of that year.
The Lusitanos and Iberians were again the victors in the Western Pool, with the Portuguese losing for the very first time in the pool stage, as their Spanish neighbors landed a spectacular win in Lisbon. Delta and the Brussels Devils kept their rhythms and showed positive signs.
In the Eastern Pool Tel-Aviv Heat, Black Lion, RC Batumi, and Bucharest Wolves threw down the gauntlet, but in the end, the 2021 champions and the Israelis, squeezed past their group to qualify for the knockout stage.
The Lusitanos would slip and allow Jordan Chait and Cº to emerge victorious, while the Black Lion confirmed their status as favorites, making the final an all Eastern Conference meet-up.
As a clone of 2021 finale, the game would go down to the wire after a Tel Aviv fightback drew them back into striking distance, but the champions would endure an electric final ten minutes pushing them over the line to secure the title for the second consecutive season.
New wonderkids like Luka Matkava, Luka Ivanishvili, António Cerejo, Alin Conache, Max Wierda, and Flor Van den Bussche made quite an impact. The most experienced units also had a say, as Shalva Mamukashvili, Romain Pinte, Victor Sanchez, and a few others left their mark in 2022.
The Moment of the Season: Tel-Aviv Heat winning in Lisbon. The Israeli side was able to defeat the 2021 runners-up, pulling an upset in the Portuguese capital thanks to a well-tuned boot of Jordan Chait.
Now in 2023, with the Rugby World Cup nearly in the rear-view mirror, the Super Cup can shine brightly once again, and the eight contestants have all to play for!
It’s safe to say the Rugby Europe Super Cup hasn’t had the easiest of starts in it’s infancy, but it’s proven pathway to ensure the likes of Portugal and Georgia can show what they are able to do on the world’s biggest stage.
Ahead of the first weekend on November 4th, we caught up with a few of the main actors of the show.
Quotes from the Stars
Tomás Appleton (Lusitanos captain): “The Super Cup has been a cornerstone for us and gave us a massive push. We have a team more in tune thanks to it. We are able to play more as a team, build good attacking patterns, work on our defense, and choose the game plan that fits us better. The new format will push us to new boundaries, as it will demand more of us, and we like it!”
João Mirra (Lusitanos coach): “The Super Cup helped us to give international experience to a good number of players. It is a great incentive for those who dream of playing at a higher level. Our goal is to win every game, and this competition really gave us a great experience.”
Shalva Mamukashvili (Black Lion hooker): “Super Cup is another opportunity for the Georgian franchise in which 50% of national team players are based, to play more international games. It’s a chance for young lads to get some precious experience and also when half of the team is always together it adds a huge impact to the national team. My best memory probably is our first game against the Heat in Tbilisi during the opening season. New team new competition and first fantastic win in front of our supporters.”
Every game of 2023 will be broadcast on rugbyeurope.tv
By Francisco Isaac
Photo: Dennis van de Sande