(Published - 11 May 2020)
The well-being of student athletes was central when all university sports tournaments were cancelled for the rest of the year, as the COVID-19 pandemic strengthens its grip across South Africa.
This week, Varsity Sports, Varsity Cup and University Sport South Africa (USSA) announced that all competitions have been suspended for the remainder of 2020 due to coronavirus.
“UWC Sport has been part of all consultations leading to the cancellation of USSA, Varsity Cup and Varsity Sports competitions,” revealed UWC Sports Director, Mandla Gagayi. “It is our responsibility to support the lockdown regulations because we take the people’s lives, including our student athletes’ well-being, seriously. Our focus is now on providing all the necessary support to our student athletes to ensure that they manage their time with regards to e-learning and that they keep active through regular exercise.”
His reaction follows the decision by the Varsity Sports executive committee – which consists of multimedia rights holder Advent Sport Entertainment and Media (ASEM), University Sports Company (USC) and University Sports South Africa (USSA) – and university representatives that it was unlikely that sports will resume as normal in 2020.
Like most sectors, higher education institutions had to suspend contact operations for remote or flexible learning for the foreseeable future as an attempt to stop the spread of the coronavirus. At the time, the UWC rugby team was deeply involved in the Varsity Cup, South Africa’s premier university rugby competition.
There will be no team relegated from the Varsity Cup competition and no promotion/relegation match between the Varsity Cup and Varsity Shield competitions. Therefore, there will be 10 teams in the Varsity Cup for 2021. In short, this means UWC will remain in the Cup for another season and Madibaz from the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in Port Elizabeth will be promoted from the Shield to the Cup next year as they had already achieved an unassailable log-points tally on the combined Varsity Shield log for 2019 and 2020.
“It is unlikely that any normal sports tournaments will take place within the next 10 months,” ASEM chief executive and former Springbok captain, Francois Pienaar, said in a statement. “We have, therefore, taken a principled decision to suspend all our sporting activities across universities until 2021.
Our priority is to ensure the safety of our athletes and spectators, while also allowing universities and schools to return to the academic year. We will, however, remain ready to host certain tournaments should government regulations change regarding the hosting of sport events and academic calendars allow for tournaments to take place.”
ASEM will continue to monitor government regulations and is committed to ongoing communications with all stakeholders.
“Our focus now is to work with our commercial partners, USSA and the USC to develop the best possible calendar for 2021 and reintroduce a fresh, new sporting landscape for youth sport,” Pienaar added. “People remain our main priority and the health of our staff, and the well-being and academic success of our athletes and supporters will always be placed first.”