The biggest Welsh University sporting occasion is just over 24 hours away, when Cardiff University and Swansea University rugby teams take to the field for the 16th annual Varsity match at the Millennium Stadium. They will be cheered on by thousands of their fellow students and many alumni looking to rekindle their pre-tax hey-days!
But what can we expect?... Swansea will be looking to make it three wins in a row after their 28-18 victory last year. However, having only garnered promotion to the top tier of the BUCS leagues this season, the Red and Blacks have acquitted themselves with aplomb, exceeding even their own expectations by finishing third in the table and defeating their Swansea rivals twice along the way in what will surely give them the psychological edge.
Both teams are very well acquainted with each other, with many players pulling on the same club colours every week as their adversaries such as Arthur Ellis (Cardiff) and Jonathan Vaughan (Swansea), who have both been regulars for Bridgend Ravens in the Welsh Premiership this season.
But with crunch time approaching, those close friendships will be put to one side as they pull on the crest of their respective colleges and become instant heroes to the thousands of adoring fans watching.It will be an emotional occasion for those representing their university for the last time, such as Swansea's 2010 winning captain Kerry O'Sullivan, who will don the green and white for the fourth and final time at Varsity.
The day is a culmination of the universities' sporting prowess as, along with the Varsity Cup up for grabs in the showpiece is the Varsity Shield, whereby the two universities compete in a number of sporting events, from ultimate Frisbee to the more traditional fencing. Unfortunately due to the inclement weather, a number of fixtures have been cancelled with the ladies rugby, freshers rugby and the American football all falling foul. In what is the highlight match of the year for many of the students, it must be a devastating blow, with weeks of effort washed away in the rain.
After the day’s sporting events, the festivities move to a more affable setting with the students giving their best efforts at drinking Cardiff dry, before the atmosphere changes to one of anticipation and excitement of what the evening's spectacle will hold. Luckily the Stadium roof will have protected the playing surface from the deluge of rain to provide a perfect stage for the warriors to take to battle. So who will win?
Swansea have the proven track record in this event, the nous, the big stage mentality and the experience, but they must surely start as underdogs based on form over the past academic year, with Cardiff boosting great results and a number of outstanding performers this season. But I still bleed Green and, for me, it has to be a Swansea victory!
When the dust settles on the night, only one University will emerge with the bragging and banter rights in South Wales. Well, at least till next year!