This year’s edition of the FNB Varsity Cup will be played in a secure bio-bubble at the University of Pretoria (UP) between 4 April and 24 May where some of the most promising rugby players in the country will be in action.
Teams are going to find it difficult to dethrone University of Stellenbosch (Maties) who won the tournament in 2019 as coach Drikus Hancke has assembled a good team.
Also in action will be the lower Varsity Shield which has teams like Durban University of Technology (DUT), Walter Sisulu University (WSU), Rhodes University (RU), University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN), Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) and University of Fort Hare (UFH).
Due to Covid-19, players of the 17 teams that will be playing in the two divisions will be staying at the Varsity Village where they will be following strict health and safety protocols.
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Central University of Technology (CUT) vs University of Johannesburg (UJ)
The tournament begins with a mouthwatering clash between CUT and UJ where both teams will be looking to set the tone.
UJ head coach Dewey Swartbooi has said that they big ambitions this season and they want to improve on their performances of last year.
Swartbooi said they have lost seven key players, including captain Edwin Jansen, but their departures is an opportunity for youngsters to show what they can do.
CUT coach Pieter Bergh is excited for the tournament as they look to reach the semi-finals for the first time and he is going to rely on his captain Cohen Jasper who represented the Junior Springboks in 2019.
Pick: CUT and UJ Tied at 0.90 at BetXChange
University of Pretoria (Tuks) vs Wits University
Tuks coach Nico Luus says they want to be consistent this season despite the fact that they will be without captain Marius Verwey, flyhalf Fiela Boshoff and No 8 Ewart Potgieter.
But the core of the senior group from last year like wing Stefan Coetzee, No 8 Jaco Bezuidenhout and flank Hanru Sirgel are still around and they have promoted loosehead prop Cebolenkosi Dlamini, former Sharks U21 flank Lindokuhle Luthuli, flyhalf David Coetzer who will be captained by centre Sango Xamlashe.
Wits coach Hugo van As has also lost players like fullback Daniel Kasende and wing Kwanele Ngema who have completed their degrees and they have also lost centre Sicelo Champion and prop CJ Greeff.
Van As also announced that they have appointed Justin Brandon and Constant Beckerling as co-captains because of the number of matches that are going to be played in a short space of time.
Pick: Wits wins 2.50 at BetXChange
North West University (Pukke) vs Nelson Mandela University (Madibaz)
Pukke coach and former Springboks flyhalf André Pretorius said they are happy to be on the field again following disruptions of Covid-19 and they want to improve from last year.
Like most of the teams, Pukke have lost tighthead prop Matimu Manganyi to Maties and centre Evardi Boshoff to UCT but they have enough in their reserves to replace them.
The team will be captained by wing Lincoln Daniels and he will be supported by a captain’s council made up of flank Chris Vermaak, centre Marco Donges and hooker Gustav du Rand.
Madibaz coach André Tredoux on has also lost fullback Luvo Claassen who is playing for the Eastern Province Elephants.
The team will be captained by lock Luyolo Dapula and they also have centre Aya Oliphant and hooker Temba Boltina.
Pick: Pukke Wins 0.06 at BetXChange
University of Western Cape (UWC) vs University of Free State (Shimlas)
The Shimlas will be coached by former Bulls coach Pote Human who has expressed satisfaction with their pre-season preparations.
Human said they have assembled a young squad with players having promoted from their Young Guns team and recruited from the Free State U21 team.
UWC, who are coached by former Springboks Sevens coach Paul Treu, have implemented a new system, culture, standards and high-performance programme.
In their, they have a good group of senior players like centre Lyle Hendricks, lock Pieter-Steyl Swanepoel, hooker Jacques van Zyl, prop Justin Theys and wing Brandon de Kock.
They also have two 19-year-old Western Province-contracted players who will start studying at UWC this year in hooker Lukhanyo Vokozela and prop Lamla Nunu.
Pick: Shimlas Wins 0.33 at BetXChange
University of Cape Town (Ikeys) v Stellenbosch University (Maties)
Defending champions coach Drikus Hancke said Maties expects this year’s Varsity Cup to be the most tightly contested in a while because there are a lot of well prepared teams.
To prepare their team, Maties have promoted a number of players from their development structures who will be working with senior players from last year.
Coach Hancke has chosen centre David Brits as captain for this season because of his experience while
Ikeys coach Tom Dawson-Squibb has lost key players in the like flanks Nama Xaba and Busanda Mabena and lock Dave Meihuizen.
As a result, they have moved scrumhalf and captain Liam Kloosman to the wing while centre Evardi Boshoff has joined us from NWU.
Pick: Maties Wins 0.25 at BetXChange