MARK KEOHANE writes the Varsity Cup in its first year rocked. Since then it’s just another professional tournament.
The Varsity Cup may have the innovation of doing a few things differently, but what was supposed to be a celebration of student rugby somehow just seems like another tournament, in which the traditional power houses remain the traditional strengths in the tournament.
Much has been made of the Port Elizabeth-based Nelson Mandela University display this season and equally there has been bewilderment at how poor Shimlas have been. But it seems the old one two of Stellenbosch University (Maties) and University of Pretoria (Tukkies) are merely playing out a long rivalry in another guise.
More focus this year has supposedly been on reinvesting in the student and there are more stringent regulations permitting to team selection, which favour those who are currently studying.
But the tournament, for intents and purposes, is a professional breeding ground and the Tukkies team, as just one example, is a professional side that has carefully been constructed and then sold to the public as a bunch of students who just want to play Monday night footie.
I loved everything about the Varsity Cup in its inaugural year. It was fast paced, it was different to what I was watching in the professional leagues and it was showcasing a more carefree style of game, in which skills and entertainment were the selling point to lure in a new audience.
The promise of something special was definitely there. The tournament’s sponsors have not been shy with cash. They have also engaged strategically with sectors of the media to buy space that guarantees favourable presentation.
But the rugby that rocked in the first year is rugby that bores me in 2013. In a saturated market it is more an irritation than an inspiration.
Am I missing something? Does the student audience see it different? Is it beyond the rugby experience?
Is it predictable and from a rugby perspective how do you view it in the context of all else that is going on in the game of Rugby Union?
Is it a competition that has delivered on expectation since the inaugural year?
What am I missing?
Ikey Tigers 15 Maties 37
NMMU 20 UJ 13
Tuks 52 Wits 0
Shimlas 38 Pukke 18