Varsity College may be one of South Africa's newest rugby clubs but the Durban-based outfit are not short on ambition as they continue their climb up the national tertiary ladder at the University Sport South Africa (USSA) tournament at Wits University.
The club competes in the Fidelity Security KZN Premier Division, where they currently lie third behind heavyweights Jonsson College Rovers and Acer Durban Collegians, but until recently were known by another name.
“Varsity College RFC was formerly known as Old Boys, who themselves were an amalgamation of two Durban clubs with proud histories, namely DHS Old Boys and Glenwood Old Boys,” said chairman Graham Thompson. “The member voted overwhelmingly in favour of the name change and changes to the constitution in 2011 and this has been ratified by the KZNRU.”
Thompson said the decision to change was made out of a need to move with the times. “I've been involved in KZN rugby for a long time and I've realised that if you want to run a successful club it has to be financially secure and must be able to offer its players something they may not necessarily get at rival clubs,” he said. “The Varsity College campus overlooks our fields and is based on the same Riverside site but there was never any interaction between them and the club, and rugby wasn't something they were serious about although many Varsity College boys were already part of the rugby club.
“But they bought into our vision and came on as a title sponsor. As the relationship grew it became obvious to me that Varsity College had to be more than a title sponsor,” he added. “Over R100-million has already been invested by Varsity College in the campus site at Riverside. It was clear that they are here to stay. On the same premises of Riverside Sports Club are hockey fields and soccer fields as well as a restaurant. There's something good happening here.”
The change was more than just a name change however. Inherent in the new constitution of the club was a purpose to dedicate its interests in the development of student rugby, whilst remaining an open club. This opens up exciting possibilities for the club, particularly at U20 level.
Varsity College have already held discussions with the Varsity Cup organisers, who said there was no reason why they could not play in the Varsity Cup one day. “We are aiming to play in the Shield within the next few years and playing in the USSA tournament is a step towards that,” said Thompson. “Hopefully we can show that we belong in the top echelons of student rugby.”
With the eight Varsity Cup teams making up Pool A at the USSA Week, Varsity College were placed in Pool B alongside the five Varsity Shield clubs. “We beat the University of Fort Hare 33-22 on Monday and on Wednesday we play CUT in the semi-finals,” said Thompson. “As a private institution, there has been some resistance to us playing but we are determined to prove, through our performances, that we have a positive contribution to make to Varsity Cup one day and that our participation will bring another positive dimension to club and university rugby.”
USSA Day 2 fixtures (Wednesday):
Pool A – 2pm NMMU vs Pukke (semi-final), 12.30pm Tuks vs UJ (semi-final), 11am Maties vs UCT, 12.30pm Shimlas vs Wits
Pool B – .30am Varsity College vs CUT (semi-final), 2pm UWC vs TUT (semi-final), 9.30am UKZN vs DUT, 2pm Fort Hare vs Namibia
Pool C – 11am Rhodes vs NWU Vaal (semi-final), 12.30pm Walter Sisulu Buffalo vs CPUT (semi-final), 12.30pm Zululand vs WSU Ibika, 11am MUT vs NMMU George.
Pool D – 9.30am UL Turfloop vs Venda, 9.30am Cida City v Medunsa, 11am UJ Soweto v CA, 2pm WSU Mthata v NWU-Mafikeng.
Elsewhere around the country, Varsity Cup champions FNB Tuks suffered their first defeat of the 2012 Carlton League when they lost 19-13 to Centurion, allowing Pretoria Police to leapfrog the Pretoria students to the top of the table.
Jonsson College Rovers recorded their second successive century in the KZN Moor Cup since their narrow loss to Tuks in last month's Champions' Challenge, beating Telnet Crusaders 103-0 to move one step closer to clinching their seventh successive Premier Division title.
The Eastern Province Grand Challenge is producing a nailbiting Club Champs race for the top non-university teams, with Despatch's 41-19 victory over Progress giving them the inside lane going into the final fortnight of the league. The only team that can catch them, SAPS, kept their hopes alive by eliminating PE Harlequins from the race following a 14-9 win.
And in the Western Province Super League A, Club Champs qualifiers Durbanville-Bellville made it 10 out of 10 with a hard-fought 27-7 away win over False Bay. Hamiltons beat Villager 39-13 in the latest edition of the country's oldest club derby to move to third on the table, three points behind Maties, while SK Walmers' 40-27 victory over relegation-threatened Tygerberg sees the Bo-Kaap side move to fourth.
With just 73 days remaining until kick-off of the 2012 National Club Championships in Rustenburg on 15 September, the following clubs are confirmed qualifiers: Villagers Worcester (Boland), Durbanville-Bellville (WP), Blanco (SWD) and Sishen (Griqualand West). The identity of the Leopards qualifier will be known this weekend, when Club Champs hosts Rustenburg Impala play off against either Vaal Reefs or Klerksdorp.