Varsity Cup back with a bang in Pretoria

The 2021 edition of the Varsity Cup will be played in a secure bio-bubble at the University of Pretoria from 4 April to 24 May.

For the first time in the tournament’s history, it will also include comprehensive broadcast coverage of Varsity Shield matches.

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.

As previously reported by, 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.

‘It’s been a long and hard journey to this point, but we’re finally going to see the best in young rugby talent again,’ said Xhanti-Lomzi Nesi, Varsity Cup tournament manager.

‘We might not be able to have in-stadium attendance, but we have a feast of rugby planned on SuperSport and a couple of surprises for fans. Varsity Cup has always been about innovation, pushing the boundaries and changing lives of those who form part of it. In 2021, we’re going to take this to the next level.’

The nine rounds of the Varsity Cup league stage will be split into three bubbles of three rounds each. After rounds three and six, Varsity Cup teams will leave the Village as Varsity Shield teams arrive. The Varsity Shield is set to take place across two bubbles.

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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

The Varsity Cup’s eligibility rules also remain the same, with players requiring 60 academic credits from 2020 to be able to play in 2021.


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Photo: Gallo Images

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Dylan Jack