NMMU have generally excelled at the University Sports SA (Ussa) Cricket Week, but there will be extra pressure this year following the introduction of Varsity Cricket.
The summer game is the latest sport to join the Varsity Sports platform following a partnership between Cricket SA and the initiators of the varsity competitions.
Building on the success of rugby’s Varsity Cup, the Varsity Sports programme has been extended to netball, soccer athletics and hockey.
Now the first ever Varsity T20 cricket tournament will take place at North West University in Potchefstroom next year from February 3-8, to which the country’s top eight universities will be invited.
This is where it becomes interesting because the top eight sides at the annual Ussa Week will be in line to receive invitations.
That means there will be a bit more on the line when this year’s tournament takes place in Johannesburg from December 1-5.
Despite their success at the Ussa Week, NMMU coach Baakier Abrahams said they would not be resting on their laurels in December.
“There will be a bit of pressure on us because we could also be affected by the Warriors’ requirements, who are playing Twenty20 matches at that stage,” Abrahams said.
The Warriors have matches on November 30 and December 3 which will affect their NMMU-linked players and Abrahams said they would be preparing a squad of at least 20 players for the Ussa Week.
“It is a big prize to get to the Varsity Cricket because there will be some games on TV and it gives our players another chance to showcase their skills,” Abrahams said.
The Ussa Week is divided into A and B sections. The top seven A section sides are expected to qualify for Varsity Cricket, with the eighth team likely to be the winning B section team, who will replace the bottom A section outfit.
The T20 tournament will provide the perfect platform for the development of cricketing talent within the tertiary environment.
“It is fitting to work with Varsity Sports and to draw on their experience to develop cricket in the varsity atmosphere,” CSA chief executive Haroon Lorgat said.
“We believe there is plenty of talent on our campuses that is yearning for a platform to showcase itself.
“Tuks [Pretoria University] are, in fact, the reigning champions of the International Campus Challenge Series, having gone through unbeaten in this year’s tournament in England.
“Their captain, Theunis de Bruyn, is now making his mark at franchise level for the Titans while Aiden Markram, who led us to the U19 World Cup title, is another player to keep an eye on.”
Former Springbok rugby captain Francois Pienaar, chairman of Advent Sports Entertainment (ASEM), the owner of Varsity Sports, said: “Cricket is one of the biggest sporting codes in this country, and we believe this explosive competition model will get the country excited.” – Neale Emslie