Rugby that rocks officially opens the 2019 rugby season in South Africa when the Varsity Cup tournament gets underway on Monday night.
When the tournament first started back in 2008, I had the opportunity to interview the guys that made it possible – Francois Pienaar and Duitser Bosman.
They wanted to revive the rivalry between the top universities in the country and allow students a Monday Night Football experience.
Monday night was also chosen because they knew students would be back from their weekends away and would love to kickstart their week with what would effectively be an extension of the weekend.
While Pienaar and the rest of the tournament organisers wanted to give exposure to university players, I doubt whether they ever thought the tournament would be as big as it is today.
When the Varsity Cup announced their Dream Team a few weeks back, I was amazed at the number of Springboks the tournament has delivered since its inception.
In their Dream Team, they had Damian de Allende on the bench – a player pushing hard for a starting berth in the Springbok team for this year’s World Cup in Japan.
He was joined on the wood by Lood de Jager, who since his Varsity Cup days in 2012 when he played for North-West University, won the SA Rugby Player of the Year award in 2015.
Year in and out, the Varsity Cup has produced a number of stars and I’m pretty sure that will be the case again this time around.
And for the first time in the tournament’s history, Cape Town will have three universities in the Cup tournament.
After winning the Varsity Shield tournament last year, my alma mater UWC will join former tournament winners Maties and UCT.
The students from Stellenbosch will again be favourite to win this year’s event after going through the entire season unbeaten en route to their fourth title last season.
Ikeys, meanwhile, have not been at their best since winning the tournament in 2011 and 2014 respectively.
That 2011 squad of theirs was pretty special and included the likes of Eben Etzebeth, Nizaam Carr, Nic Groom and Demetri
As for UWC, they will travel to UCT to face the Ikey Tigers at 6.30pm for their first taste of Varsity Cup rugby.
Director of Rugby Chester Williams and his men, led by loose-forward Adriaan Paarwater, will have their work cut out.
But if they wish to get off to a good start, the likes of Tristan Leyds (Stormers fullback Dillyn’s brother) and flyhalf Aidynn Cupido will have to provide the spark in their backline.
Defending champions Maties start their campaign against Wits at Danie Craven Stadium in a 7 pm televised match.
They should once again delight fans.
Ikeys will be looking to become a force again, while UWC will have to prove that they are a Cup and not a Shield side in this year’s tournament.
PS: I have included the Varsity Cup Dream Team, which includes a number of players that will be in the running for Springbok honours
Who knows, maybe the Varsity Cup will deliver one or two more international stars this season. I’m sure counting on it.
Varsity Cup Dream Team: 15 Curwin Bosch (UKZN 2016), 14 Seabelo Senatla (CUT 2012), 13 Juan de Jongh (Maties 2008), 12 Rohan Janse van Rensburg (Tuks 2014), 11 Aphiwe Dyantyi (UJ 2017), 10. Handré Pollard (Tuks 2013), 9 Rudy Paige (UJ 2011-2012), 8 Oupa Mohoje (Shimlas 2011-2014), 7 Nizaam Carr (UCT 2011), 6 Jaco Kriel (UJ 2012), 5 Franco Mostert (Tuks 2010-2012), 4 Eben Etzebeth (UCT 2011), 3 Vincent Koch (Tuks 2012), 2 Malcolm Marx (UJ 2013), 1 Trevor Nyakane (CUT 2011-2012). Replacements: 16 Bongi Mbonambi (TUT and Tuks 2013), 17 Coenie Oosthuizen (Shimlas 2008), 18 Wilco Louw (Tuks Young Guns 2013), 19 Lood de Jager (NWU 2012), 20 Uzair Cassiem (UWC 2012), 21 Nic Groom (UCT 2011), 22 Andries Coetzee (Tuks 2011), 23 Damian de Allende (UCT 2012).
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