With two teams clear favourites in Group A, the ‘top-dog’ status should come down to who wins when they meet.
Between defending champions UP-Tuks and Kovsies they have eight Varsity 7s semi-final appearances and three titles, making them the obvious favourites to clinch the top two spots in the group.
Tournament returnees UFH and second yearsWits complete the group, but a lack of pedigree suggests any upset would be the longest of long shots. UFH previously had inauspicious ninth-place finishes at Villagers in Cape Town back in 2015-16, while Wits only just avoided the wooden spoon last year at Pirates Rugby Club during their debut Varsity 7s appearance.
Theirs will thus be a job to earn respect from the powerhouses while winning the best-of-the-rest clash.
The best-of-the-best clash, meanwhile, will be at 14:08 in Round 3 (suitably) when UP-Tuks meet Kovsies. History in the tournament, and particularly when there’s something riding on the result, favours the boys from the University of the Free State.
Back in 2013, Kovsies cruised past the Stripe Generation 17-0 in the semi-final – though they had to settle for the silver medal following the final against Maties. Significantly, they upgraded to gold in 2015, by beating UP-Tuks 24-19 in Cape Town.
UP-Tuks, however, are the defending champions and will look to feed off the confidence of getting the title monkey off their back. They should also have a larger contingent of support at Pirates to back them and the incentive of becoming the first team to win back-to-back tournaments (Maties theoretically did so in 2012 and 2013, but lost the second leg of the 2012 tournament in Margate).
Group A Games (all on Friday, 4 October)
UP-Tuks vs UFH (09:00)
Kovsies vs Wits (09:22)
UP-Tuks vs Wits (11:12)
Kovsies vs UFH (11:34)
UP-Tuks vs Kovsies (14:08)
Wits vs UFH (14:30)