Tank Lanning

Monday Night Rugby

2008-09-05 03:06

Tank Lanning

So as the country gears up for what will no doubt be a slightly sobering Super 14 given the return of the All Blacks and the departure of several Boks to Europe in order to earn a currency that can indeed purchase you a little more than a Big Mac; it was a lunch on Saturday at the Forresters Arms, that famous Cape Town pub, that brought my focus a little closer to home...

I have chosen not to commit to coaching this year given the arrival of what I hope to be a future big-tackling, loosehead-gobbling, tighthead prop next month (yes, you should feel for my poor wife). But I will remain close to the Ikeys as my Under-20 head coach from last year, John Dobson, will be taking the first team this year. So it was with much anticipation, and a fairly big thirst, that I joined them for a post pre-season sweat inducer at the Newlands pub.

That morning they had been divided into teams of six and given five hours to get from the Groote Schuur fields to the top of Table Mountain and back, all while performing grueling quad, lat and pec fatiguing exercises at various stops along the way. Not even an optically-soothing female task master in hot pants barking out orders could mask the pain.

Focused bunch

So surely a loud and raucous beer swilling social extravaganza at Forries to celebrate getting through that saga? I mean - that is exactly what we used to do after being forced on any form of pre-season fat burner...

Nope, instead a focused bunch of young men, many of them part of the Under-20 group I was involved with last year, munching on much needed carbs while enjoying the odd Windhoek Light...

And chatting to them during the meal, it was all about dropping those final few kilograms, using the pre-season to add an extra kg or two of muscle, chatting to the specialists about honing their specific skills, and making a name for themselves during the inaugural 'Monday Night Rugby' tournament.

You might have read about the tournament late last year. It is a concept derived from the very successful Monday Night Football in the United States, which will become a reality with the help of First National Bank and Saru.

Successful model

The FNB Varsity Cup kicks off on February 18 and sees the Top 8 Universities in the country take part in the inaugural year, with one of the matches, all played on a Monday night, broadcast live on television.

All eight teams will also play three league fixtures in George over the Easter weekend - a concept derived from the successful model of the old Durban Club Championships - and this will be followed by two semi-finals and a final, with teams and venues being determined by whoever has the most log points.

So basically before the Easter weekend, each team plays four fixtures (two home, two away) on a Monday night. Teams fly out on Sunday evening, and back on the Tuesday morning, so will need to take that Monday off varsity. They then play their remaining three fixtures at a "club champs" type tournament in George. The semis and final will then be played in the weeks after the Easter tournament.

The tournament is open to players under 25 years of age and the timing allows teams to take part in their local leagues and other Saru fixtures as well. I believe it to be a fantastic innovation so giant congratulations and thanks to FNB and sub-sponsors Steinhoff International, Castle Lager and Canterbury.


The Vodacom Cup, to my mind, is tired, and our club scene, where the Universities ply their trade in their respective geographic regions, has been on a steady decline for a long time now. And as a big believer in club rugby being the way to grow and develop rugby in SA as it talks to specific communities who share the same ideals, it's fantastic to see something like this being done at this level.

In the past, a SA universities team would play an SA Under-23 side, but that fixture, to my knowledge, has not taken place for a long time now. Perhaps something along those lines will be revived in the form a team being picked at the conclusion of this tournament? It would be great to see a SA Universities team take on a touring side in August as part of the in-coming tours.

I really am chuffed to see this happening and hope to see it as the start of a rejuvenation of the club rugby scene.

  • Tank is a former WP tighthead prop and now Sport24 editor and the author of the blog, Front Row Grunt.

  • Disclaimer: Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24.


    What To Read Next


    Read News24’s Comments Policy

    24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

    Comment on this story
    Comments have been closed for this article.
    Live Video Streaming
    Video Highlights
    Sport Talk

    Live scoring

    Love 2 Meet
    English Premiership flutter

    Take Sport24's "expert" tips at your peril...

    Sport24 on Twitter

    Follow Sport24 news on Twitter


    The 2017/18 Absa Premiership season is under way. Can Bidvest Wits defend their title? Will Soweto giants Kaizer Chiefs or Orlando Pirates emerge victorious? Or will the bookies' favourites, Mamelodi Sundowns, taste success for a record eighth time? Stay glued to Sport24 to find out!

    Latest blogs

    Springbok coach Allister Coetzee remains defiant, saying he won't resign despite a shambolic two years at the helm. Your thoughts?

    Twitter Follow Sport24 on Twitter

    Facebook "Like" Sport24's Facebook page

    WIN Enter and win with Sport24!

    BlackBerry Stay in the loop on your BlackBerry

    RSS Feeds Sport news delivered really simply.

    There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.