The creation of a second-tier Varsity Shield competition from 2011 onwards would appear to have opened the door to the KZN Rugby Union for a team from that province to play in the Varsity Cup proper from 2012 onward. While the province’s universities have never been a power-base for the game, it does remain somewhat galling that the Sharks are the only major franchise on the local rugby scene not to have the option of using Varsity Cup rugby as a drawcard to attract young talent to the province.
The University of KwaZulu-Natal will compete against WITS, the University of the Western Cape, Free State’s Central University of Technology and Fort Hare University for the inaugural Varsity Shield in 2011, with the winner of the double-round competition going on to play a promotion-relegation match against the lowest-placed Varsity Cup side. While the other four sides will all find themselves competing for the same player base as existing Varsity Cup sides, UKZN should (if the Sharks play it right) have the cream of eligible talent from the Sharks Academy to pick from and would consider it an utter disaster should they fail to secure promotion to the Varsity Cup proper within the first year.
The teams competing in the Varsity Shield will enjoy the same level of sponsorship from the existing Varsity Cup tournament sponsors, including Steinhoff and Carling Black Label. It remains to be scene what level of TV coverage the B-section competition will receive, but whatever the case, this is an exciting development for rugby in the province and should help to develop a far stronger rugby culture at UKZN, in partnership with the Sharks Academy.Tweet