The Varsity Cup will be staged at universities around the country for the first time since 2020 when the 15th instalment of South Africa’s intervarsity tournament kicks off on 14 February.
After a challenging 2021 season, organisers announced on Friday that the tournament will return to campuses around the country, with a limited number of fans allowed into the stadiums.
“The South African sporting community has endured a tough time of it over the past two years, so it’s great to see the Varsity Cup returning to the participating universities across the nation,” tournament manager Xhanti-Lomzi Nesi said.
“We’re particularly excited to have the fans back in the stadiums.
“We’re expecting a fiercely competitive tournament. Two teams will be relegated to the Varsity Shield at the end of the 2022 season, so there is certainly a lot on the line.
‘The Varsity Cup has always prioritised innovation, pushing the boundaries and changing the lives of those who form part of the community,’ Nesi continued.
‘This is the 15th season of this amazing tournament, and fans can expect to be entertained on and off the field over the next few months.’
The competition kicks off on 14 February with all 10 teams in action over the course of nine rounds, with no byes.
After the league phase of the tournament, the top four sides on the log will advance to the semi-finals.
The seven-team Varsity Shield will commence on 4 March, with matches staged at a single venue each match-day from round one to round six, with the home teams hosting games in round seven.
At the end of the round-robin phase, the top four teams on the log will qualify for the semi-finals.
Two teams will be relegated from the Varsity Cup and one from the Varsity Shield at the end of the current two-year cycle based on the combined 2021-2022 logs.
No team will be promoted from the Varsity Shield to the Varsity Cup at the end of the 2022 season.
From the 2023 season, there will be eight teams in the Cup and eight in the Shield.
Revised 50/22 law trial:
This year, the Varsity Cup will trial a new variation of the existing 50/22 law. The trial has been approved by World Rugby.
A team in possession that kicks the ball indirectly into touch from inside their own half will receive a free-kick 15m in from touch. That team may not take a scrum or lineout; it must take a tap kick. If that team scores from there, the try value will be seven points.
There is no requirement for a set phase inside a team’s own half. A team may carry the ball back and kick it indirectly into touch inside the opposition’s 22. If a team scores from the tap, it gets an additional two points for that try (point-of-origin try).
The other rules and regulations remain the same, with Varsity Cup teams still able to score a seven-point try that originates from their own half.
Varsity Cup and Varsity Shield teams are permitted to replace a red-carded player with a substitute after 15 minutes. In the Varsity Cup semi-finals and final, captains and coaches may use a white card to review a referee’s decision, with each team allowed one review per half.
Eligibility rules remain the same, with players requiring 60 academic credits from 2021 to be able to play in 2022.