Varsity Cup – ‘Rugby that Rocks!’

VC-launch-group.jpgUniversity rugby in
South Africa is set to take on a whole new dimension with the advent of the FNB
Varsity Cup which kicks-off, nationwide, on Monday, February 18.

Together with fellow tournament sponsors Steinhoff International, SAB and Canterbury, the inaugural
Varsity Cup will showcase the best rugby talent that South African Universities
have to offer. The Monday night idea was borrowed from the USA, where Monday night college
football has been a huge success over a long period of time.

It was the idea of 1995 World Cup-winning captain Francois Pienaar, the
incoming Head of Sponsorship at FNB, to marry Monday nights with varsity rugby
in SA. The eight competing universities – all of whom qualified for this
tournament – were consulted on the matter, and thanks to FNB and the South
African Rugby Union (SARU), the Varsity Cup looks set to take South African
rugby by storm.

"The dynamics of universities have changed," said Pienaar at the University of Cape Town‘s media launch on Monday afternoon.
"Students are not on campus over the weekends anymore, whereas on Mondays
everyone is back in their residences.

"This creates a massive opportunity for us to attract the students to the
games," Pienaar added. "Imagine seeing 20,000 students packed into
the Danie Craven stadium on Monday nights?"

Judging by the excitement from players and sponsors alike, the Varsity Cup –
which goes by the slogan, ‘Rugby that Rocks!’
– is set to be a roaring success.

The official launch took place last Thursday in Johannesburg, which was presented by
co-sponsors Steinhoff International, whilst UCT’s well-attended launch at the
Baxter Theatre on Monday showed just how seriously the universities are taking
this tournament.

A log system similar to that of the Super 14 will be used, with bonus points
being awarded for scoring four tries or more. At the end of the round-robin
phase, the top four teams will play in the semi-finals for a place in the
final. The bottom-placed team will have to play a relegation match against a
prior selected university in order to secure a spot in the 2009 competition

Pienaar was keen to emphasise the importance that this tournament would play in
bridging the gap between schoolboy and Provincial rugby.

"Too many players are lost in the system when they leave school. The
Varsity Cup will give players the opportunity to showcase their talents to a
wider audience," he explained.

Another initiative of the Varsity Cup is that one game will be televised live
on SuperSport on Monday nights.

Pienaar – who reminisced over his playing days as a varsity student, likening
those encounters against rival varsities to a Test match – believes that rugby
at this level could shape a student’s life forever.

The former Springbok captain was particularly excited about the national
‘koshuis’ league (residence league), which is an important component of the
Varsity Cup.

The ‘koshuis’ competition will pit the respective residence champions from the
eight universities against one another, resulting in the first national
‘koshuis’ champion and bragging rights for the year! This will be held over the
Easter weekend, in a bumper rugby festival in George, with all eight Varsity
Cup teams also playing three league fixtures over a period of five days at the
same time.

Pienaar said that he hoped that the tournament would spark interest amongst the
various Old Boys’ networks, saying that he hoped the Varsity Cup would
"get the old boys to come watch their alma maters on a Monday night".

The eight competing universities:
University of Stellenbosch (Maties), University of Pretoria (Tuks), University
of Cape Town (UCT), Tshwane University of Technology (TUT), Nelson Mandela
Metropolitan University (NMMU), North West University (NWU-PUKKE), University
of Free State (Shimlas), University of Johannesburg (UJ).

Varsity Cup fixtures:

Monday, February 18:
1. Maties v Tuks (televised)
2. UJ v TUT
3. UCT v NWU-Pukke

Saturday, February 23:
4. NWU-Pukke v TUT
5. NMMU v Maties

Monday, February 25:
6. UJ v Kovies (televised)
7. UCT v Tuks

Saturday, March 1:
8. Tuks v Kovies

Monday, March 3:
9. NWU-Pukke v Maties (televised)
10. TUT v NMMU
11. UJ v UCT

Saturday, March 8:
12. Tuks v UJ
13. Maties v Kovies

Monday, March 10:
14. TUT v UCT (televised)
15. NMMU v NWU-Pukke

Saturday, March 15:
16. Kovies v NMMU

The Easter Weekend Festival:
To be played in George where all eight teams
will play three league fixtures over a period of five days.

Thursday, March 20:
17. NMMU v UJ (televised)
18. NWU-Pukke v Tuks (televised)
19. UCT v Maties (televised)
20. TUT v Kovies (televised)

Saturday, March 22:
21. Maties v UJ
22. NWU-Pukke v Kovies
23. Tuks v TUT
24. NMMU v UCT

Monday, March 24:
25. UCT v Kovies (televised)
26. TUT v Maties (televised)
27. NWU-Pukke v UJ (televised)
28. NMMU v Tuks (televised)

Monday, March 31:
29. Semi-finals (televised)

Monday, April 7:
31. Final (televised)