Challengers out to de-throne Maties

The 2011 Varsity Cup tournament kicks-off in Bloemfontein on Monday, February 7 as the seven contenders to Stellenbosch’s throne get set – once again – to attempt to end the dominance of the all-conquering Men in Maroon.

The Maties have won three successive Varsity Cup titles, starting with their last-gasp win over FNB UCT in the inaugural final in Coetzenburg in 2008, right up until last year’s win (by two points) over the selfsame Ikey Tigers when they went through the tournament unbeaten.

And, ironically, the team that has come the closest on two occasions, UCT, will kick things off in 2011 when they travel to Bloemfontein to face the FNB Shimlas at Shimla Park for the first time ever in the history of the FNB Varsity Cup presented by Steinhoff International.

The Shimlas will entertain the Ikeys at 5pm, in a repeat of one of last year’s semifinals, with three first-round matches then taking place at 7pm – one of which sees a repeat of the other semifinal from last season, between the three-times defending champion FNB Maties and 2009 finalists, FNB Pukke, at the Danie Craven Stadium. (Both of these matches will be televised, live.)

The remaining opening-day matches will take place between NMMU and Tuks (in Port Elizabeth) and between TUT and UJ (in Tshwane), as the tournament moves away from its opening-day double-headers of years gone by.

Another sight difference to this year’s format will see a one-week break between the semifinals and final of the Varsity Cup – the 2011 Varsity Cup Final will take place on Monday, April 11 – to allow the first-ever Varsity Shield Final to take place on April 4.

“It’s always an exciting time for us – contemplating the start of yet another successful Varsity Cup tournament,” commented Varsity Cup MD Duitser Bosman.

“There was no need for us to tinker too much for what has worked so well for us, but we are very excited about the advent of the Varsity Shield, which will no doubt add a different dimension to the development of rugby at this level,” he added.

SuperSport are, once again, on board as official broadcasters, with 19 of the 31 Varsity Cup matches televised live – along with the finals of the brand-new Varsity Shield and the Steinhoff Koshuisrugby Championships.

One of those 19 televised matches will be the Round Seven (Monday, March 7) all-Western Cape clash between UCT and the Maties at Groote Schuur in Cape Town; a rivalry which has been one of the highlights of the Varsity Cup since the tournament’s inception in 2008.

* A promotion/relegation match will take place after the 2011 Varsity Cup – between the bottom team in the ‘A-Section’ and the top Varsity Shield side – to decide the line-up for the 2012 season.

This promotion/relegation fixture will be played as the first curtain-raiser to the Varsity Cup Final, followed by the Steinhoff Koshuisrugby Championships Final and, then, the 2011 VC Final.

The final, as in years gone by, will be played at the venue of the team finishing the highest on the log (and then winning its semifinal match) after the completion of the seven-week league phase of the tournament.

2011 FNB Varsity Cup presented by Steinhoff International fixtures:
(Home teams first, TV games in brackets.)

Monday, February 7 – Round One:
17.00: FNB Shimlas v FNB UCT, Xerox Shimla Park, Bloemfontein (TV)
19.00: FNB Maties v FNB Pukke, Craven Stadium, Stellenbosch (TV)
19.00: FNB NMMU v FNB Tuks, Xerox NMMU Stadium, Port Elizabeth
19.00: FNB TUT v FNB UJ, TUT Stadium, Tshwane

Monday, February 14 – Round Two:
17.00: FNB NMMU v FNB UJ, Xerox NMMU Stadium (TV)
19.00: FNB Pukke v FNB UCT, Fanie du Toit Stadium, Potchefstroom (TV)
19.00: FNB Tuks v FNB TUT, Tuks Rugby Stadium, Pretoria
19.00: FNB Shimlas v FNB Maties, Xerox Shimla Park

Monday, February 21 – Round Three:
17.00: FNB TUT v FNB Maties, TUT Rugby Stadium (TV)
19.00: FNB UJ v FNB Shimlas, UJ Stadium, Johannesburg (TV)
19.00: FNB Pukke v FNB Tuks, Fanie du Toit Stadium
19.00: FNB UCT v FNB NMMU, UCT Rugby Fields, Cape Town

Monday, February 28 – Round Four:
17.00: FNB UCT v FNB TUT, UCT Rugby Grounds (TV)
19.00: FNB Shimlas v FNB Tuks, Xerox Shimla Stadium (TV)
19.00: FNB UJ v FNB Pukke, UJ Stadium
19.00: FNB Maties v FNB NMMU, Craven Stadium

Monday, March 7 – Round Five:
17.00: FNB UCT v FNB Maties, UCT Rugby Grounds (TV)
19.00: FNB Shimlas v FNB Pukke, Xerox Shimla Stadium (TV)
19.00: FNB UJ v FNB Tuks, UJ Stadium
19.00: FNB NMMU v FNB TUT, Xerox NMMU Stadium

Monday, March 14 – Round Six:
17.00: FNB Pukke v FNB NMMU, Fanie du Toit Stadium (TV)
19.00: FNB Tuks v FNB Maties, Tuks Rugby Stadium (TV)
19.00: FNB TUT v FNB Shimlas, TUT Rugby Stadium
19.00: FNB UCT v FNB UJ, UCT Rugby Fields

Monday, March 21 – Round Seven:
17.00: FNB Tuks v FNB UCT, Tuks Rugby Stadium (TV)
19.00: FNB Maties v FNB UJ, Craven Stadium (TV)
19.00: FNB NMMU v FNB Shimlas, Xerox NMMU Stadium
19.00: FNB TUT v FNB Pukke, TUT Stadium

Monday, March 28 – Semifinals:
16.45: Semifinal One – Log position 2 v Log position 3, venue TBC (TV)
19.00: Semifinal Two – Log position 1 v Log position 4, venue TBC (TV)

Monday, April 11 – Final:
19.00: Final – Winner 1 v 4 v Winner 2 v 3, venue TBC (TV)

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