Preview: Varsity Shield final

CUT will host UKZN in Bloemfontein on Monday, with promotion to the Varsity Cup on the line.

It will be the Impi's first appearance in a Varsity Shield final, and they will have their work cut out for them against the Ixias who have played in all three finals since the competition began in 2011.

The two-time champions were denied promotion to the Varsity Cup in 2012 when Wits beat them on home turf, so it will be a case of unfinished business when they face former All Blacks coach John Mitchell's team.

Wits will play in the Varsity Shield again next year after going winless in their two seasons in the Varsity Cup, while the team that loses on Monday will play a promotion-relegation play-off against UJ, who finished seventh in the Varsity Cup this year.

UKZN secured their spot in the final by beating CUT 39-21 in Pietermaritzburg last week, which has prompted Ixias coach Skillie Bester to label the KwaZulu-Natal side as favourites for the final.

'I think they should now be the favourites to win this, so it's going to be a tough one,' he said. 'Yes, the guys didn't show up mentally but apart from that they played well, so we know what we're in for. Game's don't get much bigger than this for us and it's on our home turf, so we can't lose this, we cannot lose this another time.'

Impi coach Mitchell said that the key for his team will be to stick to what has worked for them this season.

'We have given ourselves an opportunity now, it is a new situation altogether but it is actually about sticking to the same processes, getting our preparation right and bringing our performances.'

Mitchell has plenty of respect for CUT, who went unbeaten to take the title last year.

'Clearly they set the benchmark in the competition, they were certainly ahead of us at the start of the competition and we have had to get better like all teams. They are very urgent, they like to move the ball around and they punish your weaknesses. They play an exciting brand of rugby and they work hard for each other, they come from a good rugby culture.'

CUT Rugby Stadium, Bloemfontein, 16:30 (SuperSport 1)

CUT – 15 Charles Hitchcock, 14 Alec Mhlanga, 13 Johan van Schalkwyk, 12 Duan Pretorius, 11 Kholo Ramashala (c), 10 Noel Marx, 9 Stephan Griesel, 8 Dean Kouprianoff, 7 Vincent Marupeng, 6 Frans Sisita, 5 Lyvette Shikwambana, 4 Fanie Coetzer, 3 Danie van der Merwe, 2 Deon Gouws, 1 Len Noort.
Subs: 16 Daniel de Jager, 17 Gerhard Baard, 18 Moeka Bolofo, 19 Johann Grundlingh, 20 Marius Grobler, 21 Johan Nel, 22 Theuns Truter, 23 Hanro Liebenberg.

UKZN – 15 Hendrik Groenewald, 14 Shayne Makombe, 13 Brandon Bailing, 12 Kurt Mavrodaris, 11 Hendrik Lategan, 10 Duncan Campbell, 9 Cameron Wright, 8 Deon Carney, 7 Zwela Zondi, 6 Lwazi Ngcungama (c), 5 Johan Wagenaar, 4 Adam Wessels, 3 Stefan van Schalkwyk, 2 Dean Muir, 1 Henri Boshoff.
Subs: 16 Mikyle Webster, 17 Bartholomeus le Roux, 18 Gideon Koegelenberg, 19 Sanele Malwane, 20 Nelson Makhanye, 21 Gavin Nyawata, 22 Yandisa Mdolomba, 23 Sizwe Kuhbeka.

Photo: Gerhard Duraan/SASPA

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Simon Borchardt