The FNB Varsity Cup will be staged at universities around the country for the first time since 2020 when the 15th instalment of South Africa’s ground-breaking tournament kicks off on 14 February.
After a challenging 2021 season, 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 FNB Varsity Cup returning to the participating universities across the nation,’ said Xhanti-Lomzi Nesi, Varsity Cup Tournament Manager. ‘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 FNB Varsity Shield at the end of the 2022 season, so there is certainly a lot on the line.
‘The FNB 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 FNB Varsity Cup tournament kicks off on 14 February. All 10 teams will be in action over the course of nine rounds, with no byes.
Defending champions FNB UP-Tuks will face five-time winners FNB Maties in Pretoria in Round 1 (19:00 kick-off, live on SuperSport). In the earlier televised game (17:00), the FNB NWU Eagles will host FNB UCT Ikeys at the Fanie du Toit Sports Grounds.
After the league phase of the tournament, the top four sides on the log will advance to the semi-finals.
The seven-team FNB Varsity Shield will commence on 4 March when FNB Rhodes host title-holders FNB CPUT at the Rhodes Great Field.
Shield matches will be staged at a single venue each matchday from Rounds 1-6, with the home teams hosting games in Round 7.
At the end of the round-robin phase, the top four teams on the log will qualify for the semi-finals.
Ticketing and access-to-matches details will be released soon.
Two teams will be relegated from the FNB Varsity Cup and one from the FNB 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 FNB Varsity Shield to the FNB 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 FNB 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 FNB Varsity Cup teams still able to score a seven-point try that originates from their own half.
FNB Varsity Cup and FNB Varsity Shield teams are permitted to replace a red-carded player with a substitute after 15 minutes. In the FNB 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.
Putting the spotlight on mental health
This season, the FNB Varsity Cup’s Pink Shorts campaign will aim to raise awareness around mental health.
‘A key narrative of the 15th edition of the FNB Varsity Cup is the mental health of the student-athletes,’ Nesi said. ‘Following a disruptive two-year period due to the pandemic, students have been forced to study remotely. It has taken a toll.
‘We aim to raise awareness and acknowledge the challenges that these rugby players face on a daily basis.’