THORISO PHASHA

With the Varsity Cup Football tournament once again nearly upon us, we take a look at the teams set to battle it out for varsity football’s most coveted prize. The annual football tournament enters its third instalment, having been established in 2013, and promises ten weeks of action.

UP-Tuks go into the competition as defending champions having monopolised the competition since its inception with two titles in the trophy cabinet. Captained by Rubin Swartz, UP-Tuks are eager to clinch their third consecutive title. Their first match is against local rivals Tshwane University of Technology (TUT).

Tuks attacker Mbongeni Masilela said, “It’s always good to play against our neighbours, it’s a display of how competitive Pretoria football is. They are a tough, well organised team..” UP-Tuks head coach Evangelos Vellios said, “There is always pressure at the University of Pretoria [to retain the cup]. We like to dominate not only in football but in all sports, so the biggest pressure is the one we put on ourselves, and we thrive under pressure.”

TUT will be out for revenge as they look to bounce back from previous disappointments. TUT were unceremoniously excluded from the 2014 tournament due to fielding an ineligible player during the USSA qualifiers.

The Vaal University of Technology (VUT) enters the Varsity Cup as newcomers, but any team that underestimates them will do so to their own detriment. VUT won’t be pushovers, having beaten both UP-Tuks and Wits University in the 2014 USSA tournament.

Walter Sisulu University will also enter the tournament for the first time, with their opening Varsity Cup match against fellow newcomers North West University (Pukke).

Pukke beat their Mafikeng-based merger campus in a two-legged USSA qualifying series last year to enter the tournament. Pukke will undoubtedly be considered as underdogs in their debut season of the Varsity Cup, but will hopefully be spurred on by the need to prove themselves.

Wits endured a disastrous first season in the Varsity Cup, winning a solitary match and losing their six other fixtures in the 2013 tournament. After failing to qualify for the 2014 competition, they are back this year with a solid squad.

The University of the Western Cape (UWC) has played in all the Varsity Cup tournaments to date but has never progressed into the knockout stages. This is a record they will look to put behind them as they aim for the title.

Home-ground advantage often gives a psychological edge on the field, however this will be a minimal luxury for Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU). NMMU will play five of their seven round-robin fixtures away from home in this year’s competition.

Spectators can expect goals aplenty as Varsity Cup fixtures have been known to produce some impressive scorelines, with 153 goals being scored in just two seasons. Form and history will count for very little as all teams start on level pegging. An opening win, however, will definitely give some measure of confidence going forward. The tournament kicked off with a north versus south encounter between Wits and UWC on 20 July.

This season also looks to be one for the fans to enjoy, with competitions like the flavour freestyle, scrabble challenge and kick for cash. Tickets to the matches are free when booked through the Varsity Sports app, with tickets at the gate costing you R10.

 

Photo: Carli-Ann Furno

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