With the FNB NWU Eagles lifted the 2023 FNB Varsity Cup trophy in Potchefstroom after beating the FNB UCT Ikeys in a pulsating final, it’s time to reflect on a historic season. This year not only saw eight teams competing in the prestigious tournament for the first time, but the inaugural FNB Varsity Cup Women’s competition also took place.
The action kicked off on 20 February with defending champions FNB UP-Tuks hunting their third consecutive title. They were shocked on home turf in Pretoria when FNB UFS Shimlas beat them 26-25, a telling omen for the rest of the season.
The middle rounds of the tournament saw some upsets with many of the big teams struggling to get their season going. While NWU continued to rack up victories, the FNB CUT Ixias were labelled as giant killers with victories over FNB Maties in round 2 (23-19) and over Tuks (41-39) in round 3.
Round 6 and Round 7 saw the teams at the top of the log battling it out for the playoffs where NWU managed to secure a home semi-final against Tuks while Shimlas would host FNB UCT Ikeys in Bloemfontein. Tuks and UJ would face off in their final game of the season and it was the Joburg side who handed the title holders their seventh straight loss and see them automatically relegated to the Varsity Shield for the first time ever.
In the semi-finals, the Eagles beat former champions Maties 19-10 and Ikeys scored a convincing 65-30 victory over Shimlas.
A week later the Ikeys would travel to Potchefstroom to come face to face with NWU at a sold out Fanie Du Toit stadium. It was a hard-fought match with the result hanging in the balance until the last second. The Eagles managed to hang on to beat Ikeys 27-25 and be crowned champions for the second time in their history.
The Women’s tournament saw FNB UJ Women beat FNB Tuks Women 36-5 in the first semi-final and FNB Maties Women beat FNB UFH Women 33-7 in the second semi-final to advance to the final. A week later Maties outscored UJ 63-9 to score an emphatic victory in the inaugural FNB Varsity Cup Women’s final in Cape Town.
2023 also saw the launch of the #ShowUs campaign, a community outreach programme where each Varsity Cup and Shield university aligned with an existing project within their campuses to uplift and assist those in need. Read more about their initiatives HERE.
The excitement went into overdrive in 2023 with the first-ever Cheerleaders That Rock Challenge, taking fan engagement to the next level to find the best cheerleading squads around the country. After a judging and voting process the UCT cheeleaders took the top top hours with UWC and Tuks as runners up.
FNB Players of the Tournament:
Suzuki Rookie of the Tournament:
Cheerleaders That Rock: