New Varsity Cup rules explained

The 10th edition of the Varsity Cup will see a number of rule and format changes, which includes the addition of a ninth team to the competition.

This guide gives you the lowdown on the latest changes to the popular tournament so you can ‘back your boytjies’ without confusion getting in the way.


The expansion to nine teams sees Varsity Shield champions Wits added to the Cup competition, making Gauteng the only province with three teams in the premier event.

Over the course of 12 weeks, the nine teams will play eight round-robin matches (four home and four away) and each team will enjoy the luxury of a bye week during the regular season.

A complete overhaul of the point-scoring system sees the abolition of the nine-point try gimmick. The ‘point of origin’ rule revision does not mean the end of the bonus-point incentive altogether, despite the scrapping of the nine-point touchdowns. Any try originating from a team’s own half will be worth seven points.

However, if the ball is carried back into your own half or if a team decides to kick to the line after being awarded a penalty, they will be awarded a five-point score. A normal five-point try will be awarded if a team scores from anywhere inside opposition territory.

Varsity Rugby is also reverting to two-point conversions and three-point penalty kicks and drop goals.

If a team concedes a red card, they will play with 14 men for just 20 minutes, after which another player may go on the field. The player who received the red card will not be allowed to play any further part in the game. SA Rugby will appoint citing commissioners for all the televised matches. However, for the few non-broadcast games, team managers will fulfil that crucial role. They can access all match footage through an SA Rugby video system that will be made available to them.

The Madibaz’ forfeiture of their home games for 2017 comes through no fault of their own. Nelson Mandela University’s sports stadium will be under construction during the tournament.

The four teams at the summit of the log after the regular campaign will advance to the semi-finals, where the No 1-ranked side will host the fourth-placed qualifier, while the log runners-up will welcome the third-placed team.


– The Varsity Cup has expanded from eight to nine teams.
– For the first time since its inception, the Varsity Cup has been pushed forward to start in January.
– The competition has adopted a system that features an equal number of home and away games.
– The point-scoring system has undergone another modification.
– A new red-card rule comes into effect when the season commences.
– Team managers will act as citing commissioners in non-televised matches.
– NMMU have forfeited all their home games for the year.


Varsity Shield viewers will be happy to know the second-tier competition has added three new participants to its ranks, as it expands from five to seven teams. The new entrants are Rhodes University, Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) and Walter Sisulu University (WSU).

Photo: Gallo Images

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Mariette Adams