Cape Town - Charges brought against North-West University (NWU-Pukke) into the alleged contravention of the Varsity Cup regulations in relation to fielding an ineligible player during the 2016 season, were dismissed following a hearing in Cape Town this past week.
Advocate Stelzner SC, acting as the independent chairperson in the case, released his official findings on Monday 31 May 2016, ruling in favour of NWU-Pukke.
Varsity Cup received information following the Varsity Cup final on 11 April 2016, alleging that player Bartholomeus le Roux was ineligible to play for NWU-Pukke. The allegation was that Le Roux had been registered as a student of the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal (UKZN) in 2014, played in the Varsity Shield in that year, and failed to pass a sufficient number of subjects to achieve the required minimum (60) credits during that year.
This requirement was incorporated into the Varsity Cup by-laws with the dual aim of ensuring that players are not only active students of a university participating in the competition in any given year, but also to ensure that they make adequate progress with their academic studies during such period.
Le Roux completed an application for registration for a six-month Certificate in Business Administration (CBA) at UKZN’s Extended Learning Unit.
In his written reasons for the decision, Advocate Stelzner SC found that the CBA course was, properly considered, not a course of UKZN given that it did not form a part of the university’s Programme and Qualification Mix (PQM) as approved by the Department of Higher Education and Training, and accordingly did not contain a South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) ID and was not a credit bearing course. Instead, it would be more accurate to describe the CBA as a ‘short’ course offered to corporate candidates or delegates wanting to gain entry into UKZN’s BBA degree programme and run by a separate corporate entity which may be affiliated to the university.
Notwithstanding the evidence presented by Varsity Cup, Advocate Stelzner SC found that there was insufficient proof that Le Roux registered as a student of UKZN or UKZN’s Extended Learning Unit.
Consequently Advocate Stelzner SC concluded that Le Roux would thus have been playing as one of the three ‘non-student’ players for UKZN in the 2014 Varsity Shield, as permitted in terms of the 2014 competition rules.
“Pukke was not in breach of by-law 8.7 by playing Le Roux in 2016, since Le Roux had de facto and de jure, never been enrolled for any last or previous year of studies with any other university participating in a Varsity Cup competition,” said Advocate Stelzner SC.
“The purported enrolment of Le Roux for the CBA course did not make him a student of UKZN in 2014, nor did it make him a bona fide student of that university in that year, with the result that the prohibition on his playing in a subsequent year without obtaining sufficient credits did not apply to him.”
In commenting on Varsity Cup’s decision to pursue the allegations made against NWU-Pukke, Advocate Stelzner SC stated that, “[t]he fact that the charge has not been upheld does not mean it could or should not have been brought in the first place. On the contrary, Varsity Cup in my view had little choice in the matter but to pursue the charges in the manner in which it was done.”
“The issues in question, and the complaint, are important and as set out herein, not uncomplicated. It was only during the hearing that the full circumstances surrounding the matter would have become known to Varsity Cup.”
Whilst many have drawn parallels between this matter and the case involving UKZN in 2016 (following which 12 log points were deducted from UKZN after it was found to have fielded an ineligible player) the two cases must be distinguished. In the UKZN case the relevant player’s previous registration as a student at the University of Johannesburg, as well as his failure to make the required academic progress whilst a student there, were uncontested, with UKZN pleading guilty to the charge.
Commenting on the ruling, Varsity Cup CEO Duitser Bosman said, “We accept the ruling of the chairperson in this matter. As stated in the finding, the issues at hand were complex and Varsity Cup was duty bound to ensure that a thorough, transparent process of investigation and adjudication of the charge was carried out by an independent and impartial arbitrator. We are pleased this comprehensive process has now been finalised.”