As the Varsity Cup enters it’s second decade, there has been much debate around the introduction of a PowerPlay that will see teams forced to play with 13 players.
“Innovation has been driving the success of the FNB Varsity Cup, and this year we’re doing it again,” says Duitser Bosman, CEO of the university tournament.
The team calling the Power Play may remove any two nominated backline players from the opposition for a period of three minutes of playing time. The Power Play can only be called by a team while in their own half, must be called by the captain, and can only be called once. If the team whose players have been removed score a try during the Power Play period, they are awarded an extra two points (seven points before the conversion).
It is hoped that it will encourage coaches to employ exciting, attacking tactics while fostering a generation of dynamic and adjustable rugby players.
“Yellow and red cards are such integral aspects of rugby, yet players and coaches worldwide struggle to deal with the change in personnel,” said Bosman.
“This innovative new rule will foster a generation of rugby players who will be able to defend with less teammates on the field and will know how to fully utilise a numerical advantage.”
1995 World Cup winning wing, and UWC coach, Chester Williams agrees: “The new rule will be good for players, coaches and, most of all, spectators as it keeps the game fresh. It will be tactically and strategically challenging for all of the coaches, and will be interesting to see how other coaches react.”
Challenging indeed. But some are suggesting that it might see the team playing against 13 players kick even more. This with a view to flooding the breakdown and forcing the all-important turnover closer to the opposition tryline.
Might it also reward the bigger and more physical sides? Instead of giving the ball air, a bruising side might choose to use their giant one off runners to have a go at what will no doubt be a threadbare defence around the fringes of the breakdown?
Is the fact that we need to teach players how to defend with 13 men on the field not an indictment on the current state of the game? Could the powers that be not have thought of better ways to create the space so badly needed in the modern day game? How about extending the offside line from a set piece and then actually policing it?
Innovation or gimmickry? Your thoughts on a postcard to the All Out Rugby team please … Or in a comment below :)
The first round of Varsity Cup matches take place on Monday the 29th of January, and sees defending champions Tuks host Shimlas, UJ host Maties, Ikeys host Wits, and NWU host CUT.
CLICK HERE for the kickoff times and full list of fixtures.