The Varsity Cup final contenders will be decided in Cape Town and Bloemfontein on Monday when the UCT Ikeys and UFS Shimlas host Maties and Tuks, respectively.
Shimlas’ running game will be put to the test against a more pragmatic Tuks outfit, while the expansive Ikeys will be similarly challenged by rivals Maties.
Shimlas and Ikeys have been the strongest teams over the course of the tournament and deserved to finish the league stage at one and two on the log.
If all goes to plan, the two most expansive sides in the competition will meet in next week’s final. It would be interesting to see if both sides persisted with their respective gameplans in a decider, or whether they attempted to play with more balance in order to clinch a trophy.
Perhaps we will receive some answers this week when both teams compete in the semi-finals. The result, rather than the quest for four tries, is all that matters at this stage of the tournament.
The Ikeys made a statement when they beat Maties 44-27 on the Green Mile in round seven, and produced many spectacular come-from-behind performances over the course of the season.
Maties will look to pressure the hosts with an impressive scrum and maul, and have been accurate in the red zone – as illustrated by hooker Sean Swart’s tally of nine tries in 2022.
The students from Stellenbosch will also have a point to prove after a recent below-par performance against UWC and will need to step up on defence to contain a multi-faceted UCT attack.
Flyhalf Adriaan van der Bank has been one of Maties’ star performers, but will be unavailable for the semi-final. Nevaldo Fleurs will be tasked with implementing a kicking game that can put UCT under pressure.
Meanwhile, Tuks have been victims of their own success as, shortly after winning the 2021 final, a host of top players were contracted by professional teams. The class of 2022 is younger and inexperienced, and the performances have been far from clinical.
Tuks boast strong kicking options at scrumhalf, flyhalf and fullback, and will be looking to maximise those strengths in the coming clash with Shimlas, and have conceded only 172 points in nine matches.
Shimlas, however, have relied on the skills of their forwards, sharp decision-making from their halfbacks, and the speed of a backline able to play an exhilarating brand of attacking rugby.
The introduction of Swys de Bruin as the director of rugby has also had an impact on the team’s mindset.
Fixtures and teams:
UCT vs Maties (Monday, 4:30pm, Cape Town)
UCT – 15 Duran Koevort, 14 Rihaz Fredericks, 13 Suleiman Hartzenberg, 12 Rethabile Louw, 11 Ntokozo Makhaza, 10 David Hayes, 9 William Rose, 8 Taariq Kruger, 7 Thomas Meyer, 6 Sipho Dyonase, 5 Reynhardt Crous, 4 Conor Evans, 3 Keagan Glade, 2 Keagan Blanckenberg, 1 Luthando Woji (c).
Subs: 16 Alex Castle, 17 Lukhanyiso Bomela, 18 Alizwa Mngqeta, 19 Mika Schubert, 20 Jason MacLeod Smith, 21 Imad Khan, 22 Kian Davis, 23 Athi Gazi.
Maties – 15 Sibabalwe Xamlashe, 14 Marcqiewn Titus, 13 Waqar Solaan, 12 Taigh Schoor, 11 Anton du Toit, 10 Nevaldo Fleurs, 9 Thomas Bursey, 8 Simon Miller, 7 De Wet Marais, 6 Gift Dlamini (c), 5 Matt Gray, 4 Juan Beukes, 3 Matimu Manganyi, 2 Sean Swart, 1 Vernon Matongo.
Subs: 16 Chris Rossouw, 17 Rhynardt Rijnsburger, 18 Friedrich Weilbach, 19 Jesse Johnson, 20 Louw Nel, 21 Mckyle Volmoer, 22 Brendan Venter, 23 Mike Mavovana.
UFS Shimlas vs Tuks (Monday, 7pm, Bloemfontein)
UFS Shimlas – 15 Litha Nkula, 14 Zane Bester, 13 Janco van Heyningen, 12 Jooste Nel, 11 Asanda Kunene, 10 George Lourens, 9 Chadd Adams, 8 Ruwald van der Merwe, 7 Lourens Oosthuizen, 6 Thabo Ndimande, 5 Thabang Mahlasi (c), 4 Pierre Uys, 3 Blaine Golden, 2 Carl Wijburg, 1 Melusi Mthabela.
Subs: 16 Wihan Marais, 17 Loyiso Peteni, 18 Jan Meades, 19 Nathan Jordan, 20 Reinier Viljoen, 21 Jandre Nel, 22 Kwezi Dlamini, 23 Luthando Buthelezi.
Tuks – 15 Stephan Coetzee, 14 Kabelo Mokoena, 13 Zander Reynders, 12 Lincoln Daniels (c), 11 Tharquinn Manuel, 10 Walter Visser, 9 Bernard van der Linde, 8 Orateng Koikanyang, 7 Stephan Smit, 6 Dian Schoonees, 5 Divan Venter, 4 Mihlali Stamper, 3 Francois Klopper, 2 Allister Williams, 1 Ethan Burger.
Subs: 16 Werner Fourie, 17 Andre van der Merwe, 18 Daniel Wessels, 19 Kabasele Nkombua, 20 Hilton Gie, 21 Clyde Lewis, 22 Keane Galant, 23 Ambesa Zenzile.