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24 May 2020 | in NUSF News, COVID-19 updates

South Africa’s Varsity Sport suspended until 2021

Varsity Cup action 2Varsity Cup action. Image courtesy of Varsity Sports

Amid the ongoing COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic, authorities in South Africa have made the difficult decision to postpone all Varsity Sport events to 2021.

 

Varsity Sport is the most lucrative university sport tournament in South Africa, comprised of nine different sporting codes involving universities across the country that participate in various competitions throughout the year.

 

Varsity Cup actionVarsity Cup action. Image taken by Dominic Barnardt/Varsity SportsWith South Africa’s academic calendar running from February to November, very little university sports action had taken place before the nation was placed under complete lockdown on March 26 in an attempt to curb the spread of the virus.

 

Lockdown restrictions were slightly eased at the start of May, with tertiary institutions remaining closed and learning taking place online where possible, yet the spread of the virus is yet to be contained – at the time of print, the number of cases in the country were still on the increase, with over 10 000 cases and more than 200 deaths recorded.

 

With the students’ well-being the utmost priority in such unprecedented circumstances, and with several related aspects still at this stage unpredictable and unknown, a decision was made to call off all Varsity Sports competitions for the rest of the year.

 

“The Varsity Sports Executive Committee consisting of multi-media rights holder, Advent Sport Entertainment and Media (ASEM), University Sports Company (USC), University Sports South Africa (USSA) and university representatives, agree that it is unlikely that there will be any normal sports tournaments for the rest of 2020 and therefore has taken the decision to temporarily suspend all Varsity Sports tournaments for the rest of 2020,” a statement read.

 

Francois PienaarFrancois Pienaar: Image by Coetzee Gouws/Full Stop CommunicationsASEM Chief Executive Officer, and 1995 Rugby World Cup winning captain Francois Pienaar, did however leave the door open for a possible return of sport before 2021, should the situation in the country improve.

 

“We have taken a principle decision to suspend all our sporting activities across universities until 2021,” he said. “Our priority is to ensure the safety of our athletes and spectators, while also allowing universities and schools to return to the academic year. We will however remain ready to host certain tournaments should government regulations change regarding the hosting of sport events and academic calendars allow for tournaments to take place.”

 

Varsity Sports’ biggest and most popular competition, rugby’s Varsity Cup tournament, had already commenced prior to the coronavirus outbreak in the country, with six rounds played before the country went into lockdown.

 

Following a meeting of the Varsity Cup board, it was decided that, should no sport be able to take place for the remainder of the academic year, the 2020 Varsity Cup, along with the lower tier Varsity Shield and Varsity Young Guns tournaments, will be declared incomplete.

 

It was agreed that no relegation from the Varsity Cup would take place, with Varsity Shield leaders Nelson Mandela University, who had an unassailable lead atop the second-tier tournament standings this year, promoted to next year’s edition of the Varsity Cup. The 2021 tournament will thus involve 10 universities across South Africa, with two sides relegated at the conclusion of next year’s event.

 

Authorities are now already shifting focus onto 2021, in the hope of continuing the success of Varsity Sports in future.

 

“Our focus now is to work with our commercial partners, USSA and the USC to develop the best possible calendar for 2021 and reintroduce a fresh new sporting landscape for youth sport,” Pienaar said. “People remain our main priority and the health of our staff, the wellbeing and academic success of our athletes and supporters will always be placed first.”