Explainer: 2021 Varsity Cup and Shield

Following the announcement that the 2021 Varsity Cup will be held from 4 April to 24 May, SARugbymag.co.za unpacks the mechanics of the tournament.

Where will the tournaments be held?

The 2021 edition of the Varsity Cup and Shield will be played in a secure bio-bubble at the University of Pretoria. Matches will be played at Tuks Stadium, the Tuks B Field and at Loftus Versfeld (a mere 4km away) on Mondays, Thursdays, Sundays and public holidays.

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How will the tournament adhere to current Covid-19 regulations?

The Varsity Cup is set to alternate with the Varsity Shield during this 51-day period, with all 17 teams staying at the Varsity Cup Village. Teams will leave and return to the Village between bubbles.

Both the Varsity Cup and Varsity Shield will adhere to SA Rugby’s Covid-19 protocols, with players and management being tested regularly. Weekly testing will also be done during the four-week period leading up to the tournaments.

Which teams will be participating in the Cup and Shield?

After last year’s Varsity Cup and Varsity Shield tournaments were cut short by the Covid-19 pandemic, the Varsity Cup board opted to promote the Madibaz to the Varsity Cup as they had already secured enough points on the combined 2019-20 Varsity Shield log. And with no team being relegated from the Varsity Cup in 2020, there will be 10 participants in the 2021 tournament.

The Varsity Shield will still have seven teams in 2021 after University Sports South Africa (USSA) nominated Durban University of Technology (DUT) to join the tournament. DUT will make their debut against WSU in the first match of the Varsity Shield at Loftus Versfeld on 12 April.

How will the playoffs work this year?

As always, the top-four teams on the Varsity Cup log will qualify for the semi-finals, which will be played on 21 May, followed by the final on 24 May. The top-two teams on the  Varsity Shield log will contest the final on 9 May.

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How will the promotion-relegation system work this year?

There will be no promotion or relegation after the 2021 season. Instead, the bottom two teams on the combined 2021-22 Varsity Cup log will be relegated to the Varsity Shield, while the last-placed team on the combined 2021-22 Varsity Shield log will fall out of the tournament. From the 2023 season, there will be eight teams in the Cup and eight in the Shield.

Have any special law trials been introduced for this year’s tournaments?

No changes have been made to the rules and regulations for the 2021 season.

Varsity Cup teams will still be able to score a seven-point try originating from their own half, while Cup and Shield teams are allowed to replace a red-carded player with a substitute after 15 minutes.

In the Varsity Cup semi-finals and final, captains and coaches can use a white card to review a referee’s decision, with each team allowed one review per half.

Where can we watch Cup and Shield fixtures?

SuperSport will broadcast 34 of the 48 Varsity Cup matches live and – for the first time ever – all 22 FNB Varsity Shield fixtures.


Photo: Kevin Sawyer/Varsity Sports

Post by

Dylan Jack