Icing is being smeared stylishly across the cake. Ten candles are about ready to be lit, the cameras are all rolling and in two weeks the confetti will fill South Africa’s summer air. It’s the 10th season of the FNB Varsity Cup presented by Steinhoff International.
Celebrations will be plentiful in 2017, as South Africa’s most prestigious rugby community reflects on nine years of its most vibrant competition. But celebrating guests would be foolish to disregard its rapidly developing younger brother, the FNB Varsity Shield presented by Steinhoff International. Just ask the world’s best sevens player – Seabelo Senatla.
“I remember playing reserve for CUT’s third team in my first game at the university,” said Senatla. “After pressure from my mom I decided to focus on my studies, but kept playing rugby. I pulled my way up the ranks and ended up playing for the first side in the last four games of Varsity Shield in 2012, and ultimately in the final.
“It was the first time in my life I saw so many supporters supporting me. As a student that’s big. You’re famous on campus for that week. I was spotted there and moved on to the Cheetahs under-20s and the rest is history.”
In 2017 the Varsity Shield will grow by 40% as the tournament increases from five to seven. Adding to that excitement is the fact that three new universities will join the fray. Rhodes, Cape Peninsula University of Technology and Walter Sisulu University will all make their debuts in the competition.
Another recent feather in the Varsity Shield’s cap is FNB UWC’s Uzair Cassiem, who became the first Varsity Shield player to represent the Springboks, in 2016.
The competition may be three years younger than the Varsity Cup, but in 2017 its participants and fans will enjoy more rugby, against more opposition, while offering opportunities to three new universities and all their students.
The Varsity Shield is hot on the heels of its younger brother. And while it’s not about to spoil the big bash in 2017, it doesn’t plan to live in the shadow of its big brother.