The second leg of the 2014 Varsity Athletics programme ended with a bang with UP-Tuks the firm favourites.

The University of Johannesburg was home to the second leg of the exhilarating Varsity Athletics’ programme, which took place tonight at the Westdene Stadium. And if the crowd thought the NMMU fixture was gripping, they definitely did not go away disappointed, with this evening’s events creating as much excitement and nail-biting tension as was seen in Port Elizabeth a few weeks ago.

In what could almost be described as cool but otherwise perfect weather conditions, the oval track and fields of UJ’s Westdene Stadium saw teams from universities around the country compete for honours during what has clearly been one of the most exciting events held recently in the city.

The University of Pretoria, UP-Tuks, came out strongly as the overall winner at tonight’s event, dominating from the start and taking home four of the five women’s track events.

The 400m hurdles saw UP-Tuks’ Anneri Ebersohn cross the finish line first. As the firm favourite, she did not disappoint. The 1500m was nail-biting all the way with a neck-on-neck surge in the final lap between UP-Tuks’ Stella Marais and UJ’s SA U23 champion, Sibanga, with Marais pulling away on the home stretch to win in a time of 4.33.31.

The excitement of the women’s track events continued across the 100m, 100m hurdles and the 4×100 m relay, with the only women’s track event not taken by UP-Tuks being the 100m sprint which saw NWU-Pukke’s Melissa Hewwit defend her crown to keep the title. And it wouldn’t be a Varsity Athletics event without some drama on the night. The 100m women’s hurdles saw Rikinette Steenkamp, UP-Tuks, take first place followed by Ansulet Potgieter despite what appeared to be a pulled hamstring for Potgieter. The 4x100m relay saw an easy win for the team from UP-Tuks who narrowly missed a record with a time of 46.05 seconds, followed by Maties in second place. It was clearly a night to be remembered for the UP-Tuks’ women’s track team.

The men’s track events however saw an even spread of titles and records, with a mix of winners across the different universities. UP-Tuks emerged as winners in the night’s 200m with an easy win by Akani Simbine, finishing with a time of 20.66 and a new record, together with a win for UP-Tuks in the 4x100m relay which saw them crossing the line in a time of 39.52 seconds, this time beating their own record. Andre Olivier of NWU-Pukke took home first place in the 800m, taking over the lead from Kovsies’ Rynhard van Rensburg in the final bend, to break his record from last year with a new time of 1.45.98. With a false start in the 400m which saw NMMU’s Lonwabo Majerman disqualified, Shaun de Jager from Maties got off to an impressive start but it was ultimately national champion Wayde van Niekerk, Kovsies, who streaked past de Jager to reclaim his 400m crown. With the men’s 5000m coming down to a race between two, home favourite Jeromy Andreas of UJ and NWU-Pukke’s Jerry Motsau, it was Motsau who crossed the finish line first.

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.

With as much excitement on the field as on the track, the UJ field team gave the home crowds a reason to scream as they delivered impressive performances, walking away with two of the titles on offer. Dewald van Heerden delighted all with a throw of 55.33m to win the Discus title. And to give the home crowd even more reason to cheer, Apelele Rasmeni edged out UP-Tuks’ Dwayne Boer to win the Triple Jump event. The first-ever Hammer throw was won by NWU-Pukke’s Juan Muller, with Kovsies’ JVA Steytler claiming the High Jump title with a jump of 2.06m.

Muller’s success was continued by NWU-Pukke’s women’s field team which saw them claim two of the evening’s three titles. An upset in the Shot Put saw home favourite Lezaan Jordaan beaten by NWU-Pukke’s Geraldine Duvenage, with team-mate Megan Wilke dominating the Javelin. But all was not lost for the home team, with Patience Ntshingila winning the night’s Long Jump title and thrilling the crowd with a jump of 6.15m.

“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, 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 are FNB, Cell C, 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 next 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 Stellenbosch on 21 April, followed shortly by the fourth and final event 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 Varsity Sports events which are shown on SuperSport channel 210 every Monday evening at 17:45.”


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