Johannesburg - Hot on the heels of the success of the inaugural Varsity Shield, the Varsity Cup Exco has announced another new and exciting expansion to the Varsity Cup with the addition of an Under-20 tournament.
This students-only Varsity Cup Under-20 tournament, as with the Varsity Shield and the Steinhoff Koshuisrugby Championships, will run parallel with the Varsity Cup in 2012.
Like the Varsity Cup proper it will involve the same eight teams, with the universities seeded according to their senior teams' performances in the four-year history of the FNB Varsity Cup presented by Steinhoff International.
These eight teams will be divided into two pools of four each (according to their seedings), with the universities playing three league matches followed by the semifinals and the final; with the latter set to be played as a curtain-raiser to the 2012 Varsity Shield Final.
All Varsity Cup U20 matches will be played as curtain-raisers to Varsity Cup fixtures, as the country's best schoolboy players get the opportunity to step straight into the Varsity Cup in their first year out of school - encouraging more aspiring rugby players to combine professional careers with an education.
"Given the student quota that we have in the Varsity Cup, a students-only Under-20 tournament - where all players must be fulltime students at their respective universities - will help the universities identify their bona fide students for promotion to the Varsity Cup proper," explained Varsity Cup Managing Director Duitser Bosman.
"We need to help our member universities of the Varsity Cup to be internally strong from the 'juniors' through to the 'big boys'."
Bosman continued: "At the same time, it will also allow the South African Under-20 coaches to cast their net a bit wider when it comes to SA U20 selection - especially with the IRB World Junior Championships set to be held on our own turf next year.
"As we saw with the Varsity Shield this year, there is tremendous depth at universities level and this gives another 16 coaches, eight managers and plus/minus 240 (more) players the opportunity to experience being a part of the Varsity Cup."
SA Under-20 coach Dawie Theron added: "This really is wonderful news!
"The northern hemisphere teams have their own Six Nations tournament - running parallel with the senior Six Nations tournament - and I've always felt we needed something like this ahead of the IRB World Champs which takes place before our local provincial tournaments kick-off.
"My job is not just about coaching the SA Under-20 team, but also about unearthing new, young talent and a tournament like this can only benefit South African rugby on the whole. I'm very grateful to the Varsity Cup for allowing this - it's great news for junior rugby in South Africa!"