Varsity Cup’s back with a mighty bang
TWENTY-FIVE Springboks, 27 Springbok Sevens and a plethora of Super Rugby and professional players paint a different picture to that which has been peddled of South African rugby at death’s door.
With the 10th season of the FNB Varsity Cup a week away from kick-off, the competition’s eagerly-awaited start continues to be the life blood of South African rugby and gives a glimmer of hope that there is light at the end of the tunnel.
Such has been the success of the competition over the past decade in producing some of the country’s rising stars and bridging the great divide between schools and professional rugby, that organisers have opened the door to the Walter Sisulu University, Rhodes University and the Cape Peninsula University of Technology, who will ply their trade in the Varsity Shield.
The newbies to the Varsity Shield competition gained promotion from last year’s USSA Week with champions WSU set for a baptism of fire in their opening fixture of the tournament against bitter Eastern Cape rivals, the University of Fort Hare Blues, in Alice next month.
The inclusion of the three to the lower tier of the competition has resulted in the elevation of the Central University of Technology and Wits University to join the likes of defending champions, the North West University Pukke, Maties, UP Tuks, Shimlas from the Free State University, the University of Johannesburg, the Madibaz from the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University and the Ikeys from the University of Cape Town in the high octane top-tier that showcases the country’s top rugby talent.
Pukke and UJ will be the main match on the opening Monday of the competition next week with Wits hosting Shimlas in Joburg, Ikeys playing the Madibaz in Florida Park in Ravensmead, while the mouthwatering clash between rivals Tuks and Maties will be played at Loftus Versfeld.
Ikeys are set to return to their traditional venue of the Green Mile for the remainder of the season after ceding their home ground for another local venue due to exams taking place at the UCT Sports Hall, while Tuks will also play the rest of their matches at home at the conclusion of the registration week.
The Varsity Cup suffered major disruptions last year at the hands of the #Feesmustfall campaign forcing many matches to be played at the FNB Stadium while the image of the competition was called into question after a brawl broke out at Shimla Park between protesting students and rugby supporters.
Chief executive of Varsity Sport Duitser Bosman waxed lyrical about the competition reaching a milestone during yesterday’s launch at the Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club but was not oblivious to the challenges facing South African rugby and tertiary education institutions.