Varsity cup drought continuesDate Released: Fri, 19 October 2012 16:59 +0200
New Rhodes University Rugby Coach Qondakele Sompondo is a man with one goal in mind, to take Rhodes Rugby to the summit.
Sompondo plans firstly in the short term on getting Rhodes rugby into the revered varsity shield competition by the 2014/2015 season, he’s long term ambitions are making it the dream of local school children to play for the Rhodes Rugby club.
According to former Rhodes Rugby chairperson and Rhodes third year student Chase Le Roux, Rhodes University had the chance of participating in the FNB Varsity shield if all had gone to plan and the side had won all their games in the province’s league, the Adams Cup and all the games on the sides USSA champs tour.
But all hopes were dashed when we lost the semi-final game against NWU-Vaal 23-31 at the USSA champs
Despite the side’s inability to qualify for the varsity cup and shields competitions coach Sompondo remains optimistic and as single minded as ever “we may not have been able to attain Varsity Shield Status but we won two out of the three games we played some amazing and entertaining rugby, this with an average age of just 21 in the team”
The coach believes this ever improving group will lead Rhodes Rugby for the next two or three years, with exciting talent such as James Hitchcock, Theodore Garira and Jonty Rawlins leading the way
Unfortunately this year was one in every three that universities such as Rhodes get the opportunity to qualify for the Varsity Shield and Cup competitions so as a result the rugby team will be unable to qualify for the 2013 and 2014 competitions.
As a result Rhodes will only get another opportunity to qualify for the Varsity Shield in 2015, therefore the wait for much wanted Varsity Cup or Shield action continues.
The much revered Varsity Cup came about through former South African rugby captain and 1995 world cup hero Francois Pienaar.
The competition was formulated as a way to allow rugby players who were unable to make provincial sides such as the Natal Sharks, Golden Lions or Free State cheetahs after high school a chance to play at high level whilst receiving a tertiary degree or diploma.
This therefore would provide provinces a second chance to look at and select players who previously were passed over. In recent years Eben Esebeth, Demetri Catrikilis, Ruan Combrink and Hilton Lobberts are a few names who have thrived in the varsity cup and earned provincial contracts.
Many Rhodes students and fans of the Rhodes rugby club have been left frustrated and believe not enough is being done to improve or support rugby and sport at Rhodes.
According to Brian Thema a Rhodes second year student and avid rugby fan “the provision for sporting bursaries/scholarships is sub-optimal at Rhodes, when compared to other schools.
That is why Rhodes University continues to sub-perform against the other top universities on the sporting front”.
Ultimately Rhodes’s 1st Team Rugby’s failing to qualify for the South African Universities Varsity Cup or Shield competitions, which would have given the university national and international television publicity,
Is a clear indicator that greater incentive and reward has to be provided by the university in-order to entice talented players to play for the side
Sometimes, frugality is the most expensive strategy as the university continues to yearn for Varsity Cup rugby.
By Ranagrirai Mavhunga
Photo by: Niamh Walsh Vorster
Source: Grocott’s Mail