The Varsity Cup is an exciting way to experience university rugby.

UP-Tuks 1 are the defending champions of the FNB Varsity Cup after they beat Maties (the University of Stellenbosch) 29-21 in last season’s final. The tournament is definitely something to be watched this year, but for those of you who don’t know the ins-and-outs of the game, Perdeby has put together an easy to understand guide to the tournament.

The competition consists of a round robin stage where eight teams play each other once. After this stage, the top four teams on the log advance to the knockout stage with the top two teams being awarded home semi-finals. The team which is bottom of the log is automatically relegated to the Varsity Shield, a second-tier competition. The winner of the Varsity Shield takes the place of the relegated Varsity Cup team, while the Varsity Shield runner-up plays the seventh ranked team in the Varsity Cup. The winner of this match earns the right to play in the following year’s Varsity Cup.

The University of Witwatersrand won the 2012 Varsity Shield when they beat the Central University of Technology (CUT) 19-17. Tshwane University of Technology finished bottom of the log and were relegated to the Varsity Shield. The University of Cape Town managed to stay in the Varsity Cup by beating CUT in the promotion relegation match.

The organisers of the Varsity Cup are no strangers to experimentation. In 2012, with a special dispensation from the International Rugby Board (IRB), the scoring system was changed in an attempt to promote scoring tries, rather than kicking for posts. Under the new rules, a conversion went from being worth two points to three points, while penalty goals and drop goals went from being three points to two points. In terms of log points, Varsity Cup follows the same points system as Super Rugby. Four points are awarded for a win; two points are awarded for a draw and bonus points are awarded if four or more tries are scored, or if the losing team loses by less than seven points.

Bart Schoeman, forwards coach for the Varsity Cup, said the different scoring system has not been as successful as it was hoped to be. “There were definitely more tries scored in the 2012 season but this was due to the increased occurrence of kicking for the corners and scoring off a lineout [rather] than open, running rugby. Personally, I think the eight point [scoring system] has not achieved what it was meant to achieve, as the teams still played the same.”

“Tuks 1 has a very good chance of defending their title in 2013, as the university has a vision to be the best rugby-playing university in the world, and has made the necessary preparations to do so,” Schoeman said.

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