The excitement at the end of this penultimate 2014 Varsity Athletics programme has excited the crowd into a frenzy – who will win the cup this year?
The University of Stellenbosch was home to the third leg of the exhilarating Varsity Athletics’ programme, which took place tonight at the Coetzenburg Athletics Stadium. Last week’s nail-biting atmosphere had clearly moved to the Cape, as the crowd continued the non-stop supporting and cheering, which has come to be synonymous with Varsity Athletics events.
Weather conditions were a bit windy, with the track and field facilities at Coetzenburg Athletics Stadium seeing teams from universities nationwide competing for honours during what was clearly an evening of tightly contested finishes.
The University of Pretoria, UP-Tuks, came out strongly as the overall winner once again at tonight’s Varsity Athletics event, giving them a clean sweep so far in this year’s programme.
NWU-Pukke dominated the men’s track events, taking three of the five titles on offer namely the 400m hurdles, 800m and 5000m. An upset in the 400m hurdles saw NWU-Pukke’s Hardus Maritz cross the finish line first beating the race favourite, UP-Tuks’ Le Roux Hamman. The 800m came down to an exciting finish between NWU-Pukke’s Olympic Silver medallist, Nijel Amos and Rynhardt van Rensburg from Kovsies, with Amos taking home the title in his first 800m race of the year. With the wind a major factor, the 5000m men’s race was a tactical event coming down to a gripping finish between UJ’s Jeromy Andreas and NWU-Pukke’s Rantso Mokopane, with Mokopane proving stronger tonight in the final sprint across the finishing line. The 100m was won by Kovsies Gideon Trotter in a time of 10.79 seconds, whilst UP-Tuks continued their dominance of the 4x100m relay leading from the start to a comfortable win.
But whilst NWU-Pukke may have dominated the men’s track events, it was the women’s team from UP-Tuks who crossed the finish line first in the majority of tonight’s events, winning three of the five titles. UJ’s SA Under-23 champion, Sibanda, took control of the 1500m from early on with defending champion Stella Marais from UP-Tuks not far behind. However, a stumble from Sibanda near the finish line saw a dramatic end to this race, with Marais passing to take home the win. With two false starts in the 100m hurdles, which saw the runners from NWU and UWC both disqualified, Rikinette Steenkamp from UP-Tuks, retained her 100m hurdles title comfortably finishing in a time of 13.71 seconds. The team from UP-Tuks also went on to take the 4x100m, coming from behind to beat the Maties home side.
Defending champion, NWU-Pukke’s Melissa Hewwitt held onto her 200m title despite strong headwind on the final straight. But all was not lost for the home crowd as Maties’ national champion, Justine Palframan finished first in the 400m. In what clearly became a race between only two contestants, Palframan managed to hold off a charging Anneri Ebersohn from UP-Tuks, securing first place in a Varsity Athletics record time.
There were however no real surprises or upsets in tonight’s men’s field events, with all three winners previous champions. UP-Tuks’ Orazio Cremona continued his record of throwing over 20m at every meeting this year, finishing first in the men’s Shot Put with a throw of 20.07m. Fellow teammate, Chad Herman threw 68.10m in the Javelin, a distance of 5m further than his nearest challenger, giving UP-Tuks their second field title of the evening. The Long Jump was won by SA Champion, Zarcke Visser, UJ, who took home the honours with a jump of 7.78m with SA Junior Champion, Dwayne Boer of UP-Tuks finishing in second place with his jump of 7.66m.
The women’s field events saw NWU-Pukke winning two of the three events. Biance Erwee was clearly a cut above the rest in the High Jump, taking home the title with a season’s best of 1.75m. NWU-Pukke teammate, Geraldine Duvenage once again took the Discus title with a throw of 53.04m which gave her the added honour of being the only competitor to exceed 50m. The Triple Jump was narrowly won by Helga-Wendy Bensusan who finished with a final jump of 12.10m, seeing UP-Tuks’ Michelle Cornelius finishing second with a jump of 12.08m.
The Varsity Sports concept, borrowed from the very successful USA college sports programme, combines the highest standards of university sports with high-octane excitement. The recipe works well – the proof of the pudding, as they say, is in the eating and this is exactly what both the competitors and spectators did. They ate up the excitement, soaked up the adrenalin-packed programme and visibly enjoyed every minute of the non-stop action during the exciting and eventful evening.
“The Varsity Sports events are designed to deliver hard-and-fast action; competitiveness at its best – add a lot of noise, bright lights and passionate support from the stands, and you have a recipe for success,” says Trent Key, Marketing and Sponsorship Executive for Varsity Sports.
“And with the athletes competing for their teams, another dimension is added to the excitement. Remember that our top athletes all have the 2016 Olympics in mind; this is the place for them to be and to be seen, and the time for them to strive towards those elusive records and personal bests,” says a very positive Key. SA rugby legend Francois Pienaar is the driver behind Varsity Sports, part of Advent Sport Entertainment & Media (Pty) Ltd (ASEM).
The Varsity Sports Programme has entered its second successful year in 2014, during which the participating universities will compete across six sporting codes. In addition to the athletics programme, men’s hockey will take place from 3 to 19 May at Wits University in Johannesburg, Stellenbosch, Bloemfontein and Johannesburg (UJ). This will be followed by a hard-fought football programme from 21 July to 15 September; netball from 15 September to 20 October, rugby sevens and beach volleyball from 28 to 30 November.
“We would like to express our appreciation to our major sponsors,” says Duitser Bosman, CEO of Varsity Sports. “They’re the ones who make these events happen. It’s their commitment that has helped to create this platform, one which enables our young athletes to perform at these levels. The sponsors for the 2014 programme include FNB, Cell C, the Famous Brands Group, Samsung and the Edcon Group.”
“This is an amazing event, involving the top athletes and their teams from South African universities on a national level. Wimpy is thrilled to play a role in providing a platform to promote sport at a tertiary level, uniting sportspeople throughout South Africa in the process,” says Charmaine Ellis, Marketing Executive at Wimpy and sponsor of the event.
“The final leg of the Varsity Sports athletics programme is sure to bring another night of nail-biting action,” says Key. “This will take place at the University of Pretoria on 28 April. Hold onto your seats and if you can’t be there, be sure to watch the drama unfold by following all the action of the Varsity Sports events which are shown on SuperSport channel 210 every Monday evening at 17:45.”
Varsity Athletics Team Points, Stellenbosch event, Monday 21 April
- UP-Tuks – 121 points
- NUW-Pukke – 102 points
- UJ – 90.5 points
- UFS-Kovsies – 79.5 points
- Maties – 69 points
- NMMU Madibaz – 40 points
- UWC – 48 points
- TUT – 44 points