After no tournament in 2020, a bio-bubble in 2021 and limited spectators in 2022, the 2023 FNB Varsity Shield tournament kicked off on 16 February in front of full-capacity stadiums. Twenty-eight matches over seven rounds and two semi-finals later, FNB UWC were crowned champions when they beat FNB CPUT in the final.
This year saw eight teams competing for the first time with FNB UFH Blues intent on defending the title they won in the dying minutes of last year’s final against CPUT. While they scored a narrow 14-13 victory over FNB WSU in the first round, there were big wins for CPUT over FNB UKZN (50-8) and UWC over FNB Rhodes (87-5).
UWC and FNB Madibaz, relegated after dropping down from the FNB Varsity Cup in 2022 as a result of their log positions, dominated their matches as the tournament progressed. Defending champions UFH however continued to struggle and lost 13-33 against UWC at home in round 2 and 21-36 against CPUT in round 3.
During the latter part of the tournament, it was clear UWC were on track to remain unbeaten. They won their Cape Town derby against CPUT in round 5 (31-10) and beat FNB UKZN in round 6 (45-11) to set up an interesting promotion decider in the final round of the group stage against Madibaz.
In round 7 UWC showed why they remained unbeaten when they beat Madibaz 45-31. Both teams progressed to the semi-finals, with UWC hosting UFH and Madibaz facing CPUT at home in Gqeberha. UWC and CPUT came out on top, setting up an enticing final in Cape Town between these two neighbours.
In the end, UWC were not going to be denied a third Varsity Shield title when they held off a spirited CPUT for a brave and valiant 24-18 victory to be crowned the 2023 champions.
*Madibaz got another crack at promotion to the 2024 Varsity Cup when they faced off against FNB CUT. It was however not to be, as the Bloemfontein side smashed their Eastern Cape rivals 91-10.
FNB Players of the Tournament
Suzuki Rookie of the Tournament
For all the season highlights click HERE.