Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) hosted two-time champions University of Pretoria (UP-Tuks) in the opening round of Varsity Football on 27 July.

The first week was loaded with surprise results, packed stadiums and entertainment for all who had their bums on a stadium seat. Varsity Football is a proudly South African product supported by the likes of FNB, Samsung and Debonairs Pizza.

Former Bafana Bafana striker and current Tuks FC head coach Shaun Bartlett praised the Varsity Football competition and believes that it is the biggest amateur soccer tournament in South Africa. Bartlett attended last week's Pretoria derby between defending champions TUT and UP-Tuks at the TUT Stadium on Thursday.

"The Varsity Football tournament is great platform for professional coaches to spot and unearth raw talent," said Bartlett.

"Gone are the days where our amateur football was at a decent level and we could promote players to professional teams, but now with Varsity Football coming in, it is a great place for coaches to look at these players. This tournament is a level up from amateur football,” said Bartlett.

The 44-year-old retired from professional football in 2005 after representing Bafana Bafana 74 times following his debut in 1995. Bartlett, who was part of the 1996 Africa Cup of Nations winning side, started coaching in 2012 as an assistant coach at Durban-based Golden Arrows.

He joined Tuks FC in 2016. The former Kaizer Chiefs striker scored 28 goals for his country and more than 129 first class goals while playing for clubs including Cape Town Spurs, Charlton Athletic, Kaizer Chiefs, Bloemfontein Celtic and FC Zürich.

Varsity Football provides a sound platform for players to make the transition to professional football. Top clubs utilise the platform that this inter-university football tournament provides to their advantage, knowing that these players are exposed to a semi-professional environment. Despite it being early days, Bartlett is of the opinion that this year's edition has the potential to produce great players.

"It is very important for us as coaches to recognise talent early on and what I saw on Thursday night gives me hope. Obviously doing one amazing thing in one game doesn't mean you are an outstanding player, but if you're doing it on a regular basis then it catches the eye of the clubs."

The former Charlton Athletic striker did not want to disclose which players he thinks have the potential to go all the way and make a name for themselves in professional football.

"There are already a few players that have caught my attention, but it is going to be unfair of me to identify or mention their names. But we have already seen players that we are possibly earmarking, if not for the upcoming season, maybe in January, to start engaging with."