Varsity Cup returned on Monday 14 March at the FNB Stadium in Soweto, following an agreement reached in Cape Town last week between the committees of all universities involved and the sponsors of the tournament, Steinhoff and FNB. A decision was made to resume the tournament, with the condition that all matches be played at neutral venues.
FNB Stadium and Newlands will be the grounds that are set to host most of the fixtures, many of which will be broadcast live on SuperSport channel 201. The venues of the remaining group stage matches of the tournament are still to be confirmed and will be held on 21, 24 and 28 March. Although fans were able to attend Monday’s catch-up rounds at the FNB Stadium, it is unclear at this stage if they will be able to spectate every game. TuksRugby executive Gert van Coller commented on the decision and said, “In light of the tension that surrounds campuses across the country, Varsity Cup cannot take the risk of hosting matches in the same way that it did before. This is a bittersweet moment. The tournament must go on as an opportunity for the players involved, but at the cost of the enjoyment of a live game [at local sports grounds] for the supporters.”
Fixture lists have been adjusted to pack in more group stage matches before the semi-final and final in April. Varsity Cup CEO Duitser Bosman took into consideration academic concerns that were raised by Stellenbosch and UCT following this decision, and is attempting to keep those matches in Cape Town for the first two Mondays of the event. “The support of the universities and fans over the past few weeks has been tremendous and is greatly appreciated. We invite everyone to continue following the action through the live updates on our digital platforms, as well as through the SuperSport broadcasts of various matches,” said Bosman.
Varsity Cup supporters have expressed their disappointment about being unable to “back their boytjies” at their local sports grounds. UP rugby supporter and second-year LLB student Roxy Paans said, “I am personally very sad about this. What I enjoy most about Varsity Cup is being able to watch UP-Tuks play and experience the atmosphere of our homeground stadium. That’s something many people will miss. We [the fans] play a big role in what the tournament is all about.” The captain of UP-Tuks, Ruan Steenkamp, has reassured Varsity Cup supporters and said, “We are very glad the competition is going to continue. I want to thank every fan that has supported us at our home games, and I am glad that they will still be able to watch us play on broadcast games. Without our supporters, rugby will be a dull sport to play.”