Varsity Cup: What to Expect in 2016

Varsity Cup: What to Expect in 2016

As the 2016 Varsity Cup approaches, all eyes are on the new rule book, which introduces white cards, new scrum and mauling laws, and a 9 point try. Here we give you a short background on what to expect as a result of these rule changes in 2016, and talk to the Ikey coaching team on their thoughts leading up to their opener on Feb 8th against returning champions the FNB Shimlas.

Note: Come and support our beloved FNB Ikey Tigers on 8 February at the Green Mile. For more details and to receive FREE tickets click here.


Background to the 2016 Varsity Cup


There will be eight participating universities in the 2016 Varsity Cup. These teams will play each other once over the course of the season, at home or away. Teams will receive four points for a win and two points for a draw. Bonus points will be awarded to teams that score four or more tries in a game, as well as to teams losing a match by seven points or less.

Teams will be ranked by log points, followed by point’s difference (points scored less points conceded). The top four teams will qualify for the play-offs. In the semi-finals, the team that finishes first will have home advantage against the team that finishes fourth, while the team that finishes second will have home advantage against the team that finishes third. The winners of these semi-finals will play each other in the final, at the home venue of the higher-placed team.

There will be relegation to the Varsity Shield at the end of the season.


Varsity Cup Rule Changes 

The Varsity Cup starts on February 8 and the law changes will come into effect then – only in the Varsity Cup, not in the Varsity Shield, the Koshuis Cup and the Young Guns.

The two referees and points system used in the 2015 Varsity Cup is being implemented in a number of places around the world but strangely the Varsity Cup is reverting back to one on-field referee for 2016. The Varsity Cup is still being used to experiment with law changes and here are some of the changes for 2016:

Introducing the 9 Point Try:

A try is worth five points but then there are bonus points, depending on where the try-scoring move started. If the team that scores the try started its move between the half-way line and the opponents' 22 and they kept possession from start to finish, they will get two bonus points. In such an instance the completed movement is worth seven points. If the team that scores the try started the move in its own half, and they kept possession from start to finish, they will secure four bonus points. That means that the try can be worth nine points.

– ‘Sliding’ in the Scrum

The instructions to set the scrum will change to crouch, bind, slide. Following the initial crouch, props will bind onto each other, without being allowed to bind onto any armpit or below the middle of the rib area. Once the props have a solid grip, the referee will decide that their bind positions have been established and they will not be allowed to change or adjust their ‘bind positions.’ Props will also have to line up ear to ear and not be allowed to line up head to head.

Finally, the slide call will replace set. Set was a better word than the aggressive ‘hit’; but the change to slide suggests a change in process. On ‘slide’ the players will firm up their contact but without smashing into each other. It is more like the folding in of olden times. The front rows are lined up properly and bound fully and unchangeably, and now they come together. Then, once the referee has decided that the scrum is stable, he will instruct the scrumhalf to feed the ball into the scrum, and do so in the manner prescribed by law, in other words, ‘straight’; not under the lock’s feet. It is hoped that in this way the scrum will be safer, less likely to collapse, and produce a fair contest for the ball.

– ‘Moving Forward’ in the Maul

There is a slight change to the maul enable the referee to act more swiftly if the maul does not keep going forward. If a maul stops moving, or moves sideways or backwards, the referee will call for the maul to move forward. The team in possession will be given five seconds to get the maul moving forwards. If they fail to get the maul moving forwards the referee will allow three seconds, counted aloud, for the team with the ball to produce the ball for movement away from the static maul. If they fail to produce the ball for constructive movement away from the static maul, the referee will stop play and award a scrum to the team not in possession of the maul.

– Introducing the White Card

The White Card review system, introduced in 2015, to allow teams a limited opportunity to ask the referee to review a decision or non-decision, will be used only in the semi-finals and the final in 2016. The teams are limited to one review per half.


Thoughts from the Ikeys Coaching Team

To get a better understanding of these new laws, and to gauge how they would affect the Ikeys approach to their Varsity Cup campaign in 2016, we asked the Ikeys coaching team and a former-Ikey to share their thoughts on what is set to be an exciting season for the boys in blue and white.

 Head Coach Hanyani Shimange:

Guy Alexander will Captain the 2016 Varsity Cup side, backed up by a strong, supportive leadership group of players.

The Ikey Tiger’s unique collaboration between the coaching team and the dedicated management team will be of the utmost importance in achieving the synergy required to make this year a successful 2016 Varsity Cup Campaign.

The 2016 squad will have a lot of new faces, and some old ones. The single minded intensity from all the aspirant squad members in pre -season training bodes well for the rigours of a very tough competition.

On the new law changes – adaptability is one of our strengths, and Paul Day, our outstanding scrum coach has turned the altered laws into a potential advantage for our forwards. We are excited about the new changes as it promotes a brand of rugby we revel in, and true rugby people appreciate and support enthusiastically.


Outgoing Head Coach Kevin Musikanth:

2016 Varsity Cup is going to be a bumper edition of the competition. It will be interesting to see how the new rules influence the preparation of the teams, although I think that they will be advantageous to UCT, as the game will be a lot faster.

It is also good for UCT in that the bulk of the 2015 team is still going to be studying at the university.


Of the 2015 Ikey Tiger’s squad which played against the eventual 2015 winners in a tough semi-final clash, Joel Carew, Mark Prior, Jade Kriel, Jason Klaasens, Luke Stringer, Guy Alexander, Ryan Dugmore, Stephen Wallace, Luhleli Xoli, Nathan Nel, Tino Tenda will still be available, providing a solid foundation of depth for the IKEYS to go one better.

I have relocated to JHB to take up a more full time position at St Johns College as strategic director of rugby, as well as assisting them with their high performance centre. After 18 years of club rugby in WP it was time to move. Hopefully there will be some senior rugby opportunity as well up north, but time will tell.

I loved my two years as director of rugby at UCT, and head coach of the IKEY Tigers and the memories will last a lifetime for me. I could never forget that epic final in Potch, and the 2015 World University victory was also a special moment shared with some special people.

Being a coach at UCT is something that remains a special honour for any rugby coach and only a few get the privilege of steering an IKEY ship. It is an unforgettable journey and I wish the new coach Hanyani Shimange and his team the best of luck for this year’s campaign.

I look forward to rooting for IKEYS from up north. Once and IKEY always a Tiger.


Reflections of an Ikey Old Boy from the Golden Sixties:

Whilst the variations on scrum laws might appear bewildering to many of us, one must applaud the Varsity Cup organizers for attempting to speed up the game, and attempt to demystify the setting of the scrum. Putting the ball in straight by the scrumhalf is blindingly obvious and a discipline which any competent referee can control effectively. The jury is out on the bind and slide business end of the scrum, but if anybody can use it to our advantage, it is Paul Day.

Gavin Fernie (’64 – ’65)


Catch the New Rules in Action:


Are you as excited as we are to see how our beloved Ikeys handle the pressure of a new faster-paced game? Come and support the two time champions FNB Ikey Tigers take on returning champions FNB Shimlas on 8 February 2016 at the Green Mile. For more details and to receive FREE tickets click here.