In a bid to strengthen rugby in Pietermaritzburg, two local rugby clubs with great history and tradition, Pietermaritzburg Collegians and Voortrekker, have merged to form the new and strong Maritzburg Rugby Club.The amalgamation of the two sides, which have been rivals on and off the pitch, provides a glimmer of hope for local rugby amateur players soon after The Witness reported in January that the historic Collegians Rugby Club were battling to raise funds.The Witness also reported that their financial woes were very dire — to the point that they may have been just a year away from shutting down.Now the new local club, which are under the leadership of co-chairpersons Brad Osborne and Roy Cook, has already secured a lifeline as Magma Security company has offered financial backing.However, the side’s fresh start in the provincial First Division, where they campaign with the hope to gain promotion to the Premier Division, has been delayed due to the Covid-19 lockdown. Osborne said as the teams have been competing for sponsorships in the city, it was a no brainer that they join forces and work together for the sake of the sport in the region. “I think one of the biggest challenges facing club rugby is that we have declining numbers,” said Osborne.“So we were in a position of two clubs with great traditions, but because of the players’ spread, both clubs were significantly weakened. It made sense for Collegians and Voortrekker to combine to form a new club so that we have a stronger club and we can be more competitive than the clubs down in Durban that we have to play against,” he said.“The only way that we could keep rugby strong in Pietermaritzburg was to amalgamate. Having both clubs fighting for the same sponsorships, fighting for the same players, just didn’t make sense.”Maritzburg Rugby Club, based at Woodburn Rugby Stadium, have signed a sponsorship deal with Magma Security, which will be key in supporting the 80 players on their books.“They have given us a fantastic sponsorship which is going to be a good launchpad going forward,” said Osborne.“The reality is it’s very difficult to get sponsorships at the moment. Even before we started getting worried about the virus. The corporate world is pretty tough out there, so Magma has been absolutely fantastic with what they have given us.” With 80 players, Osborne said they will be able to field teams in three divisions. “Everybody that we’ve got on the books will end up playing and it would be great if we can get the rugby season going again after the lockdown."