The well-known sports event disappointed qualifying teams by removing the hockey and cricket tournaments this year.
Wits’ cricket and hockey team members qualifying to participate in the varsity cup games — alongside the top eight universities in South Africa — will not be partaking in the sports due to lack of sponsorship.
Sharmin Naidoo, the sports officer for hockey at Wits said that sponsors pulled their funding from supporting these games; and new ones could not be found. According to the Varsity Sports website, the main sponsors for all included sports are FNB, Cashbuild and Suzuki. However, it is not yet clear why they pulled their money from cricket and hockey.
Naidoo explained that all universities are part of a company called University Sports Company, which contracted ASEM Sports Entertainment and Media to manage and get sponsorships for Varsity Sports.
“This year they were only able to find sponsors for Varsity Cup [the rugby tournament] and some varsity sports. There have been no sponsors for cricket and hockey,” he said.
Naidoo said that the varsity sports which have secured sponsorship besides rugby are men and women’s football as well as netball.
The Wits hockey team has a history of competing in the Varsity Hockey tournament, according to Naidoo, and finished in second place in 2022.
However, Nono Pongolo, coach of the Wits’ cricket team said that to his knowledge, the team has never qualified to be included in the Varsity tournament, and “to have it ripped away from them like that is disappointing”.
He said the team worked hard to win in their division in Pretoria, in the USSA tournament in 2022; and it is important for them to continue showcasing their talents.
Pongolo added that the universities are organising a smaller cricket event amongst themselves which is set to take place at the University of Pretoria later this year, “so it’s not all doom and gloom, but it’s not the varsity cup.” However, he hope that they will be able to participate in the tournament in 2024.
Wits’ cricket player Joshua Streak said Varsity Cup “is significant because of its name” and even though there are other tournaments, there are not as big. He added, “It’s an important tournament when it comes to [national and provincial] selections, and for exposure because it’s usually televised.”
Wit’s hockey and cricket player Reese Scheepers said, “I’m extremely disappointed. We work extremely hard during the year to play in such a tournament. Now it feels like our hard work and talent won’t be displayed.” He continued, “I’m a passionate sportsman and I look[ed] forward to competing in such tournaments and now it feels like this year has been lost.”
Storme Johnson, the chairperson of the Wits sports council, who played hockey for Wits in the Varsity Sports 2019 tournament said, “It was an experience that I will never forget. It is so sad that the younger girls in our team won’t get the opportunity to experience it.”
Wits Vuvuzela reached out to previous sponsors of Varsity cricket and hockey for comment; but did not receive a reply by the time of publishing.
FEATURED IMAGE: a Wits cricket player kneels on the field after catching a ball at the Walter Milton cricket oval at Wits main campus. Photo: Kimberley Kersten
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