Fleck – Varsity Cup to trump Vodacom Cup

fleck_runs_wp110.jpgFormer Springbok
centre Robbie Fleck has thrown his weight behind the inaugural FNB Varsity Cup
– a new university rugby tournament that is set to take South African rugby by
storm when it starts in two weeks’ time.

In fact, Fleck believes this new tournament will take over from the Vodacom Cup
as South African rugby’s new breeding ground. The FNB Varsity Cup will see SA’s top eight university teams pit themselves
against each other in a single round league competition, starting on Monday,
February 18, with the top four teams progressing to the semi-finals and then a
final in April.

The tournament, the brainchild of 1995 World Cup-winning captain Francois
Pienaar, will be played mostly on Monday evenings throughout South Africa
during February and March, whilst some matches will even be broadcast on pay
channel, SuperSport. "I only wish we had a similar competition when I was still playing at
UCT," wrote Fleck in his popular weekly column on sport365.co.za.

"When I first broke into the UCT first team, Intervarsity – against the
Maties – had begun to die down, which is sad as I had many fond memories
supporting UCT whilst a scholar still.  "In fact, I opted to play for UCT based purely on those matches I used to
watch – they were always the underdogs against Stellenbosch and I wanted nothing
more than an opportunity to play for the Ikeys against the Maties in an
Intervarsity match."

Fleck – who broke into the Western
set-up in 1997,
after a series of superb performances for UCT’s first team – is confident that
the Varsity Cup will be more successful than the Vodacom Cup, which is played
at the same time as the Super 14. "Truth be told, it gives these guys a fantastic opportunity to showcase
their own talents, especially if they missed out on Craven Week selection.
However, at the same time, it also advertises the university – hopefully some
bright, talented scholars out there will be tempted to go to UCT based simply
on watching the Ikeys play in the Varsity Cup.

"I can’t praise the sponsors enough; university and club rugby has been
neglected in recent times, yet, here we have a tournament that can usurp the
Vodacom Cup as the next best thing to Super 14 and Currie Cup rugby.
"The Vodacom Cup has not covered itself in too much glory since its
inception in the late 1990s and I believe that club rugby needs to be used to
identify talent, something the Vodacom Cup has just not done."

Fleck – who played his last Test match for South
in 2002 – is based in Cape
once again, after playing club rugby in England before
being forced into retirement in 2005. Aside from his work commitments in the ‘Mother
City‘, Fleck is also part of the University of Cape Town‘s coaching staff for the
entire 2008 season. Fleck will be coaching the ‘Ikeys’ backs – with head coach
John Dobson looking after the forwards – and he is looking forward to cutting
his coaching teeth at this level.

"I have never seen a Varsity team so focused, which makes it easy for us
coaches," wrote Fleck, "I mean, have you ever heard of UCT students
training during January – on their own?? "The set-up at UCT is also very professional, we have a strong support
staff and no stone is being left unturned ahead of this exciting tournament.
However, we are aware of the battle that we face, especially against teams like
Maties, Pukke and Tukkies – all of whom have budgets considerably bigger than

"One thing is for sure though, expect to see a lot of heart from this UCT
side and we will continue to play the exciting brand of 15-man rugby that has
always been synonymous with Ikey rugby."