Var­sity Cup’s back with a mighty bang

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT - VATA NGOBENI

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.

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