Double trouble in 2010 Varsity Cup opener

The fixtures for the 2010 FNB Varsity Cup presented by Steinhoff International have been announced, with an explosive double header – in Port Elizabeth and Pretoria – set to kick-start the third edition of this fantastic tournament.

Last year’s Varsity Cup kicked-off with double headers in Cape Town and Potchefstroom and the 2010 tournament will also get underway with two sets of fixtures on Monday, February 1, 2010 – at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) and the University of Pretoria (Tuks).

Both Western Cape sides, the defending champion Maties and UCT, will feature in Port Elizabeth against Shimlas and NMMU, respectively, whilst the other first-day double headers will see Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) or the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) face up to UJ and Tuks host Pukke. (TUT and UKZN are set to play in two promotion / relegation matches later this month to confirm the eighth Varsity Cup team for 2010.)

Tuks, who have qualified for the semifinals in 2008 and 2009, have promised to upgrade their lights sufficiently in time for the start of the 2010 season. The Men from Pretoria, of course, lost the right to host their home televised matches in 2009 after failing to upgrade their lights accordingly – despite assuring tournament organisers that they would address the issue.

They have, however, made the necessary moves to ensure that their floodlights will meet tournament regulations before February 2010.

All four opening matches will once again be televised – along with 15 other matches (two per week – 19 in total) in the 2010 Varsity Cup; including both semifinals and the final at the end of March.

The Maties, the back-to-back defending champions, have a rather favourable draw as they hunt their third successive title. After starting against NMMU, they will host TUT or the University of KwaZulu-Natal the following week, before travelling to UJ for a third-round battle in Johannesburg.

Shimlas, Tuks and UCT are next on the agenda for Stellenbosch – but all those tough fixtures are at home – before they travel to Potchefstroom for their final encounter against last year’s finalists, Pukke.

In all, Maties have four home matches in 2010, along with Tuks, with the rest of the teams boasting two or three home fixtures during the season – at least one of which will be televised.

“Once again,” Varsity Cup Chairman Francois Pienaar told, “I think the new Varsity Cup fixtures have thrown up some fantastic and mouth-watering match-ups.

“That first Monday is shaping up as an exciting day’s rugby (yet again), but there should once again be plenty to play for right up until the final weekend – as there was in 2008 and 2009.”

Pienaar added: “Monday night rugby is back… and I, for one, cannot wait until the start of the 2010 Varsity Cup in February.”

The 2010 Varsity Cup fixtures:
(Home teams first.)

Monday, February 1 – Round One:
14.45: Shimlas v UCT, Xerox NMMU Stadium, PE (TV)
16.45: NMMU v Maties, Xerox NMMU Stadium (TV)
16.45: TUT/UKZN v UJ, Tuks Rugby Stadium (TV)
18.45: Tuks v Pukke, Tuks Rugby Stadium (TV)

Monday, February 8 – Round Two:
16.45: UCT v Pukke, Groote Schuur, Cape Town (TV)
18.45: Maties v TUT/UKZN, Danie Craven Stadium, Stellenbosch
18.45: Shimlas v NMMU, Shimla Park, Bloemfontein (TV)
18.45: Tuks v UJ, Tuks Rugby Stadium

Monday, February 15 – Round Three:
16.45: TUT/UKZN v Tuks, Venue TBC (TV)
18.45: UJ v Maties, UJ Stadium, Johannesburg
18.45: Pukke v Shimlas, Fanie du Toit Stadium, Potchefstroom (TV)
18.45: NMMU v UCT, NMMU Stadium

Monday, February 22 – Round Four:
16.45: UCT v TUT/UKZN, Groote Schuur (TV)
18.45: Maties v Shimlas, Danie Craven Stadium
18.45: Pukke v UJ, Fanie du Toit Stadium
18.45: Tuks v NMMU, Tuks Rugby Stadium (TV)

Monday, March 1 – Round Five:
16.45: Maties v Tuks, Danie Craven Stadium (TV)
18.45: UJ v UCT, UJ Stadium (TV)
18.45: NMMU v Pukke, Xerox NMMU Stadium
18.45: Shimlas v TUT/UKZN, Shimla Park

Monday, March 8 – Round Six:
16.45: UJ v NMMU, UJ Stadium (TV)
18.45: Tuks v Shimlas, Tuks Rugby Stadium
18.45: Pukke v TUT/UKZN, Fanie du Toit Stadium
18.45: Maties v UCT, Danie Craven Stadium (TV)

Monday, March 15 – Round Seven:
16.45: Pukke v Maties, Fanie du Toit Stadium (TV)
18.45: UCT v Tuks, Groote Schuur
18.45: Shimlas v UJ, Shimla Park (TV)
18.45: TUT/UKZN v NMMU, Venue TBC

Monday, March 22 – Semifinals:
16.30: Semifinal One – Log position 2 v Log position 3, venue TBC (TV)
18.45: Semifinal Two – Log position 1 v Log position 4, venue TBC (TV)

Monday, March 29 – Final:
18.45: Final – Winner 1 v 4 v Winner 2 v 3, venue TBC (TV)