The Varsity Cup is a trendsetting competition in rugby internationally and will continue to find new ways to advance the sport, according to SA Rugby Union chief executive Jurie Roux.
Roux, who is also the chairperson of Varsity Rugby was speaking at the launch of the sixth year of the competition in Kempton Park on Monday.
“We are back, hopefully bigger and hopefully better, I don’t think there is much doubt about that,” Roux said.
He said Varsity Cup’s impact on the South African rugby landscape had been felt from Currie Cup level up to the national side.
Among the Springbok players that made their appearance in Varsity Cup and went on to represent the country were Jaco Taute, JJ Engelbrecht, Juan de Jongh and Eben Etzebeth.
“That is a true reflection on the calibre of this competition and where those players are,” he said.
“Not only on players but on rules we are the incubator, we set the trend and we keep on setting the trend and hopefully we will do so in the future.”
The competition had in recent years introduced a number of innovative experimental rules.
Last year a new points-scoring system was trialled with conversions being worth three points and penalties and drop-goals just two points.
The point-system will again be used in this year’s competition.
Wits will, for the first time, feature in the Varsity Cup in 2013, having won promotion as Varsity Shield winners last year.
The Johannesburg university replaces Tshwane University of Technology, who were relegated to the Shield competition after they finished last season at the bottom of the log.
“Right now we feel like that dog that caught the car, we are not quite sure what to do with it now,” Wits coach Andy Royle said.
“We are excited, a bit nervous and we are looking forward to it.”
Royle said the had to ‘import’ some new talent into the squad as they would have to make the step-up from Varsity Shield level.
Last year the wheels came off unceremoniously for the 2011 champions Ikeys as came close to relegation by beating Varsity Shield runners-up, Central University of Technology in their promotion/relegation clash.
Coach of defending champions Tuks Nollis Marais will have a tough task to emulate last year’s stellar season as coach.
Marais won the Varsity Cup with Tuks as well as the Under-21 Currie Cup with the Blue Bulls.
“We will do the same as we did last year, maybe just improve on certain areas that we need to,” Marais said.
“We learned a lot from the Under-21 league, there will be a lot of young guys in the squad and we are looking forward to the challenge.”
The Varsity Cup competition will kick-off on February 4 with Maties playing UJ in Stellenbosch, while Pukke will play Tuks in Potchefstroom.
The other two matches will feature Ikeys against NMMU in Cape Town with Shimlas hosting Wits in Johannesburg.
The Varsity Shield competition will start the week before on January 28 with former Springbok mentor Peter de Villiers making his debut in the competition as coach of University of the Western Cape.