Pietermaritzburg - Major trouble is brewing in the Varsity Cup.
Last Monday, Pukke were crowned champions after edging Maties 7-6 in the final in Stellenbosch, but their status as champions is now in serious jeopardy.
They’re alleged to have fielded an ineligible player and that means a very large spanner has been thrown into the works.
That player allegedly previously played for the UKZN Impi. The Varsity Cup auditors, KPMG, had cleared him to play before the season and he thought it was of no consequence that he had played for UKZN in the past. However, the organisers now have a problem on their hands because just before the promotion/relegation playoffs they docked UKZN 12 points for fielding a player in the Varsity Shield who was previously a student at the University of Johannesburg (UJ).
UKZN Rugby Club president Nic Haswell told WeekendWitness that there had been no requirement for teams to reveal whether or not a player had played for another university previously. In the case of the UKZN player, he had spent only a few months at UJ.
Nonetheless, when the Varsity Cup organisers chose to dock UKZN those 12 points for fielding an ineligible player, they dismissed the clearance given to the player by their auditors. That decision kept UKZN out of the promotion/relegation match for a place in the Varsity Cup next season.
UKZN were represented by an advocate at a hearing that was conducted by an independent auditor and when the decision went against UKZN, their advocate warned the organisers that they were setting a dangerous precedent by taking the action they did.
That decision could now come back to bite them.
“Live by the sword, die by the sword,” UKZN’s Haswell commented.
Varsity Cup organisers confirmed to Sport24 on Monday that an investigation is under way and that the allegations are being taken seriously.
An official statement on the findings is expected on Tuesday.
It remains to be seen whether or not the Varsity Cup organisers will reverse the result of the final.
Using the UKZN incident as an example, and applying the same measure of punishment, they would also need to dock Pukke two points for each match the ineligible player participated in.
That could mean that the 2016 champions would have missed out on the semi-finals, and fifth-placed Shimlas should have been in the running to defend the title they won last year.