The Var­sity Cup and In­ter­schools tour­na­ment

Finweek English Edition - - COVER STORY -

The Var­sity Cup con­cept, which sees South Africa’s big­gest rugby uni­ver­si­ties pit­ted against one another, was con­ceived in 2007 by François Pien­aar, Duitser Bos­man and Derek Carstens.

“The idea was to cre­ate an in­ter­var­sity rugby tour­na­ment for South Africa’s lead­ing rugby-play­ing uni­ver­si­ties, but also to of­fer an ex­pe­ri­ence to spec­ta­tors that is about far more than just the match played on the field,” says Pien­aar, the CEO of Asem. “We looked at the model of Amer­i­can col­lege foot­ball in the United States and de­cided that we would im­ple­ment sim­i­lar in­no­va­tive ideas in the Var­sity Cup competition.”

He refers to the con­cept as “sportain­ment”. The tour­na­ment kicked off in 2008, fea­tur­ing eight uni­ver­si­ties and a head­line spon­sor in FNB. Since then it has ex­panded into four tour­na­ments.

Im­pres­sively, 25 Spring­boks, 27 Spring­bok Sevens play­ers and 85 ju­nior Spring­boks have come through the Var­sity Cup sys­tem in the past nine sea­sons, in­clud­ing the likes of cur­rent Spring­boks Lood de Jager and Eben Etze­beth.

Pien­aar says the tour­na­ment has evolved into a competition that not only pro­vides an al­ter­nate stream for pro­fes­sional rugby play­ers to be scouted and given a sec­ond op­por­tu­nity, but one that draws mass crowds and TV view­er­ship be­cause of how at­trac­tive the competition is both on and off the field.

He ex­plains that uni­ver­si­ties such as Maties have an at­ten­dance of be­tween 14 000 and 17 000 on Mon­day nights: “On an av­er­age Mon­day night we have in ex­cess of 35 000 in at­ten­dance across the seven var­i­ous host venues.”

Another rugby prop­erty in South Africa is the In­ter­schools tour­na­ment, which has been run­ning since 2013. It is a tour­na­ment of 12 games be­tween top rugby schools in South Africa. These games fea­ture match-ups such as Paarl Boys vs Paarl Gym­na­sium, Grey Col­lege vs Grey High School and Grey Col­lege vs Paul Roos. The tour­na­ment has a large fol­low­ing and at­tracts big au­di­ences.

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