EC varsities set to rock Varsity Shield
By Khuthala Nandipha
Another fantastic season of university rugby will kickstart on Valentine’s Day and students and the rugby-loving Eastern Cape will be treated to a feast of night time rugby.
The new season and tenth year of the Varsity Shield will see EC’s four universities demolishing opposition from all over the country and secure a place in the seniors Varsity Cup.
Walter Sisulu University (All Blacks), University of Fort Hare, Rhodes University, and Nelson Mandela University (Madibaz) will battle it out with Tshwane University of Technology (TUT), Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) and the University of KwaZulu Natal (UKZN).
The first match is on February 14 at 7pm in Makhanda. There will be no love lost or given when Rhodes University goes against a very impressive TUT team. Rhodes University has had a terrible run in the Shield for at least three seasons after they changed coaches.
Despite declaring itself as a primarily academic university, Rhodes still needs to be competitive in sports if they choose to participate.
Playing at home, Rhodes will enjoy the immense support they are shown by students and the community of Makhanda.
On the same day the Madibaz will be at home to UKZN while in Cape Town, the All Blacks will face defending champions CPUT in an away match they have to win if they want to start this season on a high note, following their disappointing run in last year’s Shield.
Fort Hare, finalists in 2017, will start with a game against a team they have always dominated, at home and away, Rhodes University. By far the most thrilling encounter of the Shield, UFH against RU is always a fun clash of players and spectators for reasons that seem to date back to ancient times.
All games are played in the evening and some are televised on Supersport.
Each team will be hoping to get a spot in the Varsity Cup, that involves top rugby playing universities in South Africa, launched in 2008 with right teams. In 2011, a second-tier competition was launched (Varsity Shield) to increase the number of competing teams. Rhodes and the All Blacks only started playing in the competition in the 2017 season.
Previous winners 2017 - University of Western Cape, 2018 - UWC, 2019 - CPUT