The club was only officially formed in 1992, when unity was achieved between the then-Transvaal Rugby Union and the non-racial Transvaal Independent Rugby Football Union (TIRFU), but its history dates back to 1889 when TIRFU was established.
Over the years, famous community clubs such as Goodhopes, Newtonians, Corinthians, Young Tigers, Roses and Collegians played under the TIRFU banner. Today, Raiders carry the torch for all those now defunct teams as the only pre-unity club competing in the Golden Lionsâ top league, with the retention of the âTIRFUâ on their badge a symbolic tribute to the past.
The club, based at the Bill Jardine Stadium, draws its modern-day membership from across Gauteng, with players coming from the likes of Soweto, Ennerdale, Eldorado Park, and as far afield as Pretoria. It boasts a thriving junior section as well as over 250 senior members.
âTraditionally, Raiders has always been a home for players from places such as the Eastern Cape, but these days we also have Zimbabweans as well as a number of players from Cameroon who are gaining vital experience,â said head coach Fernando Penshaw, a former EP Craven Week loose forward who has been at the club for eight years.
Penshaw and backline coach Jaco Booysen, a former Lions utility back, head up a young coaching staff with ambitions to become the top non-university club in the Golden Lions union.
Raiders are no strangers to the National Club Championships, having been invited by SARU to take part in the 2008 tournament in Stellenbosch. The side lost 65-11 to defending champions Maties in the first round and 34-32 to Mpumalanga champs Nelspruit in the plate quarter-finals, but Penshaw believes the club has learnt from the experience.
âWe play in one of the toughest leagues in the country,â he said. âAmong the Varsity teams there are UJ, Pukke and Wits and then you also have the likes of Pirates and Roodepoort. Our goal is to make the semi-finals and end the season as the top non-university club.â
The Golden Lions Rugby Union runs two concurrent premier leagues featuring 10 teams â the Pirates Grand Challenge for the seven affiliated Lions clubs, and the Predator league, which also includes neighbouring Leopards super clubs NWU-Pukke, Vaal Reefs and Rustenburg Impala.
âWeâve been very competitive. Last week we lost 32-31 to UJ and the week before that we went down 24-17 to Pukke,â said Penshaw. âThis week we are at home to Roodepoort and it wonât be any easier, but our investment in young players is paying off.
âWe sent an academy team to France during the Easter weekend to give our upcoming juniors a chance to gain experience. We already saw the benefits last weekend when our 21-year-old hooker Shady Govendamy excelled against Pukke. Our challenge will be to continue to produce first-class players from all communities.â
With just 109 days remaining until the 2011 National Club Championships (17-23 September in Stellenbosch) the race for qualification is tight in a number of provinces.
Tuks remain unbeaten in the Blue Bullsâ Carlton League after beating nearest rivals Pretoria Police 35-14. Winter Rose overcame Old Selbornian 30-8 in a top-of-the-table Border Super League clash to move clear of the pack, while Port Elizabeth Harlequins remain top of Pool A of the EP Grand Challenge after their 23-20 win over previously unbeaten Pool B leaders Despatch.
Shimlas hammered Old Greys 81-31 to take firm control of the Free State First Division, while Pirates kept their Golden Lions Grand Challenge hopes alive with a 53-38 win over Leopards club Vaal Reefs. Kuruman look the team to beat in the Griquas Super League after their 31-5 victory over Sishen, while national club champions Jonsson College Rovers scored in the final minute to beat Acer Durban Collegians 24-23 in a nailbiting KZN Fidelity Security Premier Division clash.
Vryburg remain top of the Leopardsâ Neser A league thanks to a 53-13 win over Leeudoringstad, while high-flying Middelburg and Witrivier look unstoppable in the Mpumalanga South East and Lowveld leagues respectively. Springs remain unbeaten in the Valke Super League while FNB UCT trounced arch-rivals Villager to go second in the Western Province Super League A.