‘Kill off Varsity and you kill off Midlands’

2009-10-14 00:00

AFTER a depressing year, Maritzburg Varsity Rugby Club are back.

Reggie Smith, Varsity rugby officer, and first XV eighthman Shane le Breton unveiled exciting plans to The Witness yesterday.

Smith said about eight full scholarships have been secured to attract players and a number of bursaries are also available.

“The proposed Midlands composite team will condemn Varsity to a mediocre existence once the cream is seconded to that team. By killing off Varsity, Midlands rugby will be shooting itself in the foot,” Smith said.

“There is no need for the Midlands Rugby Sub Union’s composite Midlands senior team idea, as Varsity are in the perfect position to take the sport further, to the benefit of the region, as well as acting as a feeder to Collegians and Waratahs,” Smith said.

“We have just signed an exciting young coach in Dylan Campbell, who studied under Jake White and has a close working relationship with Dick Muir. His youthful energy will be complemented by the experience of Beans Bateman and a number of other consultants.”

Smith said that contrary to speculation, first XV coach Dave Look has not been fired, but has withdrawn from the position due to work commitments.

He said Foton Tractors are Varsity’s new title sponsors and negotiations are still in progress, while the club’s former players are in a support role.

“Varsity’s stance on forming a Midlands senior team is that we will not be part of it and are maintaining our status as the only Premier Division team in Pietermaritzburg,” Le Breton said.

“Our vision is to become a force within KZN domestic competitions, change the view people have of the club and to get UKZN into the 2011 Varsity Cup, which coincides with the club’s centenary.”

Smith said on-campus residential accommodation, a “Sports House”, will house new players.

”Around R220 000 has been budgeted for the refurbishment of our club bar at the stadium off Golf Road,” Smith said. “This will be a commercial entity open during the week with proceeds strengthening Varsity Rugby’s ability to look after its players.”

Smith said the Varsity Cup carrot was enticing quality players — and there might even be the possibility UKZN could play next year if the popular televised rugby competition is increased to 10 teams.

“Varsity Cup is stronger than KZN Premier Division and we proved we are ready to step in,” Smith said.

Le Breton said the decision by KZN Rugby Union on Varsity’s application to have their U20A Division status returned from Midlands U20s is still pending.

“Varsity rugby is hungry to do well,” Smith said. “We are tired of all the criticism and no longer will we be on the back foot.”

Meanwhile, Collegians chairman Tony Day has moved to clear up accusations that his club are against Midlands U20s. “We support them to the extent of a substantial contribution last season and the withdrawal of our U20s for next season so Midlands can also run an U20C team,” he said. “However, we don’t support the senior Midlands concept.”

MRSU president Piet Herbst said KZNRU decisions on various issues will likely be finalised early next month, while the sub union themselves were still looking at various options around the Midlands senior team concept.

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