The FNB Varsity Cup presented by Steinhoff International will expand its involvement in South African university rugby, with the creation of a fantastic new second tier competition from 2011 onwards.
As a result, five ‘B-Section’ universities will compete against each other in a double round competition starting next year, called the Varsity Shield – a decision that was officially ratified at the Special General Meeting of the Varsity Cup (Pty) Ltd in Sandton on Friday, June 4.
The five universities that will take part in the Varsity Shield are the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN), the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits), the Central University of Technology (CUT – Free State), the University of the Western Cape (UWC) and Fort Hare University.
Fort Hare and UZKN have been pushing hard for Varsity Cup inclusion since 2008, whilst the likes of Wits, CUT and UWC will all help add depth to an already incredible tournament, which will now have 13 teams – eight in the ‘A-Section’ and five in the newly-created ‘B-Section’.
Those five teams were selected by SARU, USSA and the Varsity Cup and they will receive a direct financial sponsorship from FNB. The kit and logistics for the Varsity Shield sides will be financed by the Varsity Cup, with all four major tournament sponsors, FNB, Steinhoff International, Carling Black Label and Olmeca Tequila, extending their sponsorship to the Varsity Shield.
Jurie Roux, the Chairman of the Varsity Cup Board, told varsitycup.co.za: “It was inevitable for the Varsity Cup to take its involvement to more institutions.
“Having now got 13 universities on board, the Varsity Cup will make an even more significant contribution to SA Rugby from 2011 onwards,” he added.
The Varsity Shield will run at the same time as the 2011 Varsity Cup tournament, which starts in February of next year.
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 next season.
But, from 2012 onwards the winner of the Varsity Shield will automatically progress to the Varsity Cup without a promotion/relegation match (at the expense of the bottom-placed Varsity Cup side).
Mervin Green, SA Rugby’s Youth and Club Rugby Manager, commented: “This is a fantastic opportunity for some of the true rugby-supporting universities to show what they can do once they have the necessary support – in terms of finance and a great competition like the Varsity Shield which will give them (the) much-needed exposure.”