Newcomers Showed Their Worth
NWU-Pukke, VUT and WSU proved their competitiveness in this year's Varsity Football tournament against some of the competition's more established teams.
Two of those teams were still in the running for a play-off place before the final round of matches, which showed that that there is no big gulf in strength between South Africa's top footballing universities.
But how did these three teams compare to Varsity Football's two newcomers in 2014. In that tournament it was the University of Johannesburg (UJ) and the University of Limpopo (UL) who were making their debuts.
UJ caused a massive shock when they finished the league phase as the top team with three wins and four draws, albeit by goal difference ahead NWU Mafikeng and UP-Tuks. UJ eventually lost in the final against Tuks, but they definitely left their mark in the tournament's history.
UL was at the opposite of the table and they finished second last, but they were competitive in most of their matches.
This year Pukke were the best of the newcomers and it is interesting to note that they had the same number of wins as UJ. However, they did lose their other four games, while UJ remained unbeaten. Pukke eventually ended fifth on the standings.
VUT finished sixth with two wins and had a chance to go to the semis before their final fixture against Tuks. It was not to be and they lost that game, but their 'carpet football' was a marvel to behold on occasions. Their 3-0 over TUT in Round Three raised eyebrows, especially as the Pretoria side are contesting this year's final against UWC in Cape Town.
WSU started the tournament with a bang with their 3-2 win over Pukke in Round One, but fell by the wayside with six consecutive losses. They eventually finished last, but were no pushovers in any of their games.
So if we had to formulate our own standings amongst the 2014 and 2015 newcomers it would be something like this. We will have UJ at the top and Pukke in second spot. We would then have VUT in third place with UL and WSU our remaining two teams. Based on defeats it will be UL in fourth as they lost four matches and drew three for their three points. WSU will be last as they lost six matches with their three points coming from a solitary win.
New teams bring with them an air of uncertainty into a tournament, which makes for more competitive games and this leads to surprises and interesting results.