|Johannesburg, April 1 – The FNB Varsity Cup and Shield may be synonymous with autumn days and wild crowds, but this year’s tournaments will be vastly different as SuperSport viewers will discover when they tune into the first fixtures on Sunday.
The most marked difference will be the absence of fans, which traditionally constituted a majority of students who brought great energy and fun to the sidelines.
The pandemic has put paid to that, however, and the 51-day showpiece will now take place in a bio-bubble called the FNB Varsity Cup Village.
The University of Pretoria will host the Village, with matches also being played at Loftus Versfeld down the road.
Drikus Hancke, coach of current champions and five-time winners FNB Maties, touched on the unusual aspect of this year’s edition:
“This year’s Varsity Cup will be the most tightly contested in a while. There are a lot of good teams who will be well prepared. It will be weird not to have fans at the games, but we know they will be watching on TV. We are aiming to win the tournament, but want to take it match by match and keep improving as the tournament progresses.”
Since the inaugural tournament in 2008, many former Varsity Cup players have moved on to Springbok and senior provincial rugby. Among the emerging new talent on show in Pretoria from this weekend, players to look out for include Shayne Boulton (FNB UFS Shimlas centre), David Coetzer (FNB UP-Tuks flyhalf), Conwill Conradie (FNB UWC scrumhalf), Aidynn Cupido (FNB Wits flyhalf-centre), Robert Hunt (FNB UCT Ikeys prop), Cohen Jasper (FNB CUT fullback), Aya Oliphant (FNB Madibaz centre), Conan Le Fleur (FNB NWU Eagles centre), Darnell Osuagwu (FNB UJ hooker) and Waqar Solaan (FNB Maties centre).
The FNB Varsity Shield, to also feature on SuperSport, will be held across two bio-bubbles. The first four rounds of the league stage will be in the first bubble, followed by the last three rounds of the league stage and the final in the second bubble.
There will be no FNB Varsity Shield semifinals this year, with the top two teams on the log qualifying for the final at Tuks Stadium on May 9.
While the FNB Madibaz have been promoted to the FNB Varsity Cup and no FNB Varsity Cup team was relegated last year, there will still be seven teams in this year’s Shield after University Sports South Africa (USSA) nominated Durban University of Technology (DUT) to join the tournament.
The FNB Varsity Cup opens on Sunday with FNB CUT versus FNB UJ (5pm) and FNB UP-Tuks against FNB Wits (7pm).
The Shield tournament kicks off on April 12 with a triple-header: FNB WSU v FNB DUT (3pm); FNB Rhodes v FNB UKZN (5pm); FNB CPUT v FNB UFH (7pm).
The FNB Varsity Cup and FNB Shield tournaments will be broadcast on the SuperSport Rugby channel (ch 211) with several matches available via streaming on the DStv app (ch 245). Details on supersport.com