The return of Varsity Cup rugby between the CUT Ixias and UJ at 17:00 on Sunday will herald the first of the many deviations from the traditional structure of the competition forced on the organisers and players by the Covid pandemic.
This is one of the two matches played on Sunday, with UP Tuks also hosting neighbours from Johannesburg Wits at 19:00 in clash that years ago, when Intervarsities were still played, was the second oldest after that between the Ikeys and the Maties.
These two Cape Town sides face one another in the main match on Monday when the other three first-round matches take place.
Predicting outcomes will be folly, as there are new players, new coaches, strange circumstances and plenty of study disruption with the students studying away from their own lodgings at their universities.
▲The Sunday kick-offs are not the only changes to the accepted structure of the competition. This year the Varsity Cup clashes will all be played in three different bio-bubbles of three matches each, with all to be hosted by Tuks and played in Pretoria at Tuks Stadium, the Tuks B-Field and Loftus Versfeld Stadium.
The nine Varsity Cup fixtures will be split between played in three bubbles with matches played on Sundays, Mondays, Thursday and also public holidays.
After rounds three and six (the first two bubbles) the Varsity Cup teams will leave the Village as Varsity Shield teams arrive to play their fixtures across two bubbles. The Varsity Cup’s third bullet for the last round of three matches will then be played in a protracted competition over 51 days.
The top four teams on the Varsity Cup log will qualify for the semi-finals, which will be played on 21 May, followed by the final on 24 May.
The top two teams on the FNB Varsity Shield log will contest their final on 9 May.
There will be no Young Guns or residence competitions this year.
▲ One of the competition changes is the return of the Madibaz from the UPE, brought as there wasn’t an opportunity for a promotion/relegation match last year when the tournament was curtailed by the pandemic.
Ten teams therefore contest this year’s Varsity Cup competition.
The first-round matches in the bubble are –
Sunday 4 April:
17:00 CUT Ixias vs UJ (Tuks Stadium) On SuperSport
19:00 UP Tuks vs Wits (Tuks Stadium) On SuperSport
Monday 5 April:
15:00 NWU Eagles vs Madibaz (Tuks Stadium) On SuperSport
17:00 UWC vs UFS Shimlas (Tuks Stadium) On SuperSport
19:00 UCT Ikeys vs US-Maties (Tuks Stadium) On SuperSport
▲ All five Round 2 matches will be played on Thursday 8 April.