After a challenging 2021 season which took place in a bio-bubble at the University of Pretoria, matches of this year’s highly anticipated Varsity Cup will return to campuses around the country.
To be in line with government regulations, there will be a limited number of spectators allowed into the stadiums for the 15th instalment this competition kicks off on 14 February.
Unlike last year where the tournament was divided into segments with a break in between, all the ten teams will be in action over the course of nine unbroken rounds and with no byes.
After the league phase, the top four sides on the log will advance to the semi-finals and the lower seven-team Varsity Shield will commence on 4 March when Rhodes University will host title-holders Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) at the Rhodes Great Field.
Shield matches will be staged at a single venue each match-day from rounds 1-6, with the home teams hosting games in round 7 and at the end of the round-robin phase top four teams on the log will qualify for the semi-finals.
North West University (NWU) Eagles VS University of Cape Town (Ikeys)
NWU coach and former Springboks flyhalf André Pretorius is going to put faith his largely young players that is made up largely of those coming through their U20 ranks.
On the other hand, last year’s losing finalists Ikeys have lost more than 50 percent of their squad and coach Tom Dawson-Squibb doesn’t have many players who started last year’s final.
Pick: Ikeys Wins by 5/10 at BetXchange
University of Pretoria (Tuks) VS University of Stellenbosch (Maties)
Tuks, who will be minus thirteen players from last year, will start the defence of their title with a tough clash against five-time winners Maties at home. Lincoln Daniels has been named by coach Nico Luus to lead the youthful Tuks side.
For Maties, who will be led by Adriaan van der Bank, they have also lost a number of players from last season to leave coach Norman Jordaan light in experience at scrumhalf and lock.
Pick: Both teams tied at 9/10 at BetXchange
University of Western Cape (UWC) VS University of Free Stats (Shimlas)
UWC coach Paul Treu is happy that they have managed to produce players for top unions, franchises and even overseas even though that means they have to build from scratch. Treu has also roped in Therlow Petersen as his assistant coach.
For Shimlas, coach Andre Tredoux is full of pride that Shayne Bolton has joined Irish club Connacht and scrumhalf Rewan Kruger has received a contract with the Cheetahs. Kruger will be eligible for the Varsity Cup if he’s not playing in the Currie Cup.
Pick: Shimlas Wins by 5/10 at BetXchange
Wits University (Wits) VS Nelson Mandela University (Madibaz)
Wits coach Hugo van As has also suffered after a mass exodus with former skipper Constant Beckerling, Emmanuel Tshituka and a few others moving on. He will be unleashing a new crop of players like props Ebot Buma and Jason Cloete, as well as No 8 Cal Smid.
For Madibaz, coach David Manuel managed to hold on to about five to six players from last season but is a little bit worried about experience and depth in his squad as they will be looking to make an impression.
Pick: Madibaz Wins by 9/10 at BetXchange
Central University of Technology (CUT) VS University of Johannesburg (Ixias)
CUT coach Braam van Straaten has said that seven of their players at the end of last season and he has enough talent in reserves to mount a serious challenge this campaign.
Unlike most of the teams and coaches, Ixias coach Jonathan Mokuena has managed to retain most of the players from last season even though he lost several seniors in former captain Franco Schutte, hooker Pierre Rabie and prop Herman Agenbag.
Pick: CUT Wins by 4/10 at BetXchange