Monday Night rugby is back, bigger and better.
This coming Monday the 2012 Varsity Cup will kick off with four exciting matches. Most of the teams start this year with some new players mixing it up with some of the players who did their bit in the 2011 season.
The Varsity Cup grew past the stage were we just saw it as an appetizer for the upcoming Super Rugby season – the competition is exciting, entertaining and starting to bring its own version of good old provincialism also into the frame with more and more supporters supporting their teams. Personally, it takes me back to my childhood sitting with my dad watching Maties against Tukkies with all the big names playing while singing St. Elmo’s Fire!
With the Varsity Cup growing in popularity amongst supporters, unions in SA Rugby have also taken a keen interest to scout for future talent. Rugby World Cup Springbok Juan de Jongh, SA Sevens captain Kyle Brown, former Stormers – and now Bulls – centre Johann Sadie, Currie Cup-winning Lions captain Josh Strauss, American Eagles RWC loose forward JJ Gagiano and England Sevens ace Mat Turner are all living examples of Varsity becoming a major breeding ground for future talent.
One of the new participation rules for the tournament is that no player that has played in four or more Super Rugby games, or in a rugby Test match for South Africa at senior level, will be allowed to play in the tournament. To make sure players are thinking about studies as well, a player must past 30% of his subjects to play in the Varsity Cup.
Thanks to a special dispensation from the International Rugby Board, the Varsity Cup Rugby organisers have changed around the value of points – conversions will be worth three points and penalties and drop-goals will be worth just two points.
This means that four penalties – or four drop-goals – will equal one converted try on the scoreboard, putting the emphasis back on tries to win matches… and, ultimately, trophies. With this new rule organizers are hoping that teams will emphasize on scoring tries rather than kicking for goal.
And on teams that make themselves guilty of negative of cynical play Duitser Bosman had the following to say: “The referees and coaches had a very fruitful meeting the day before the Varsity Cup launch.
“The refs will be stricter on cynical play and encouraged to make use of the yellow card more, which – in itself – will cut down on negativity and lead to more tries, which, of course, means the chance of eight points for a converted try.”
From the side-line it would seem like the Champions UCT, Maties and Tukkies are the favourites again in the pre-season build-up. Maties send a stern warning that they are back this year to take the cup back to Stellenbosch after claiming a morale-boosting 31-21 victory over the South African Under-20 team in Coetzenburg on Friday morning. Last Saturday, the SA U20s beat the Ikeys 31-29 with a last-minute try – despite the Varsity Cup champions scoring five tries to four.
For Monday Night we have two games that will be broadcast on Supersport. In the first match up we find defending Champions UCT taking on Shimlas in Cape Town, kick-off 17H00. In the second game on Super Sport we will see Tuks taking on UJ in Pretoria at 19H00. Both these games will show us what talent these teams have to offer this season.
In the other games Maties is taking on TUT in Stellenbosch and NMMU host Pukke. A good start will be number prime objective for all the teams to stake their claim in this year’s tournament. Nine weeks of winning rugby will ensure you lifting the Cup on 9 April.
- UCT vs. Shimlas – UCT by 7 points only because they play at home, Morne
- Tuks vs. UJ – Easy win for Tuks by 15 points
- Maties vs. TUT – Maties by 20 points
- NMMU vs. Pukke – Maybe an upset with NMMU winning here but will give this to Pukke by 10 points.
Additional information from www.varsitycup.co.za