The University of Pretoria has been able to “get away with cheating in the Varsity Cup again”, Tank Lanning wrote in a Sport24 column, but UP has strongly denied allegations of cheating. This comes after the university, charged with fielding an ineligible player, faced disciplinary action from the Varsity Cup.

Advocate John Lubbe ruled that the university was guilty on four charges and not guilty on one charge regarding team selection for the Varsity Cup competition. He also ruled that UP was guilty on three charges regarding team selection for the Varsity Cup Young Guns competition.

Lubbe judged that a severe reprimand would be fair, as the same punishment had been given to the University of the Free State, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, the University of the Witwatersrand, the University of Fort Hare and the University of the Western Cape last year.

All the charges were related to one player, who News24 reported “didn’t have a positive attendance record and failed his exams”. The same News24 article added that “Tuks then allegedly cleared his academic record and the player enrolled in a new course”.

An anonymous source is quoted in the article as saying, “Many people felt Tuks should’ve been docked all their points. They need to be punished appropriately, otherwise when will these issues [of fielding ineligible players] end? The Varsity Cup’s integrity is taking a huge hit.”

UP released a statement refuting the claims made against them. The statement issued by the registrar of the university, Professor Nick Grové, addressed reports by Media24 which both News24 and Sport24 fall under. The statement began by saying that UP provided media releases explaining the situation, but these were not published by the media.

According to the statement, the player (who cannot be identified) registered for a degree in the first semester of 2012. Soon afterwards, he was selected for the national u/20 squad which was training for the u/20 World Cup. This, the statement said, is “a dream opportunity for any young rugby player” and could not be passed up.

The student was required to train in the Western Cape and “subsequently cancelled his studies in an attempt to concentrate on preparing for, and being included in, the u/20 World Cup team,” the statement said. When he was not selected for the final squad, he returned to UP and enrolled in an academic programme which could accommodate him so late in the year. He passed all of his second-semester exams.

The statement explained that there “is no explicit rule in either the constitution or the regulations of the Varsity Cup dealing with this issue [that a player cannot interrupt his studies]”. Because of this, “the finding was based on the interpretation of the presiding officer [Lubbe] and the university accepts this outcome.”

“The University of Pretoria will never intentionally transgress any rules … Yes, the University’s aim is to win, but definitely not at the expense of the integrity of the game or of the university,” the statement said.

Throughout the process, the Varsity Cup’s constitution has been criticised for the number of ways in which it can be interpreted. According to Professor Antonie de Klerk, executive director of the university, “The problem with the rules of the Varsity Cup is that [it] is contained in a paragraph or two in the Constitution and the by-laws of the Varsity Cup, and universities must then try to work out what the impact of that will be on the question [of] whether a player is a bona fide student or not.” He further explained that the Varsity Cup constitution does not provide for the two-week period at Tuks during which students may drop modules they had previously enrolled for.

De Klerk said that the university would like the Varsity Cup to “define the rules in a clear and succinct manner, standardise the data required from all universities, and check on the eligibility of all players before the annual competition starts.” De Klerk also denied allegations that UP does not take the rules of a competition such as the Varsity Cup seriously. “Of course the rules are important. The university will never intentionally breach any eligibility or other rule.”

Lanning, a former Western Province rugby player who now owns a media house called Tankman Media, lashed out at UP in his Sport24 column published on 20 March after UP’s statement had been made available. “The Varsity Cup motto is integrity, trust, friendship, transparency and honesty and I feel we are seeing anything but any of that from Tukkies,” he said.

Furthermore, Lanning said that UP is “devaluing the fundamentals of the tournament, and should have done the honourable thing by admitting their indiscretion and withdrawing [from the competition]. Instead, the University [of Pretoria] opted to defend themselves by saying that the transgression was of a ‘technical nature’ relating to a single player.”

De Klerk dismissed Lanning’s comments, saying that “Lubbe’s judgement clearly stated that this was a technical transgression. He also indicated very clearly that it was not done intentionally or even negligently.” De Klerk also told Perdeby that “Lanning did not attend the hearing. He did not listen to the evidence. He obviously didn’t read Lubbe’s ruling. He also did not [ask] the university for any comment.”

Illustration: Modeste Goutondji

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