UCT Ikeys coach Christiaan Esterhuizen says he is expecting a tough challenge in the second edition of the World University Rugby Cup in Japan. DYLAN JACK reports.
The World University Rugby Cup was inaugurated in 2015 at Oxford University as a competition played between top academic rugby universities from each continent, coinciding with the Rugby World Cup every four years and hosted by a leading university in the RWC host country.
The Ikey Tigers claimed the inaugural title by beating Trinity College Dublin in Oxford in 2015 after being selected following their 2014 Varsity Cup triumph.
This year, UCT have been invited to defend their title in the second edition of the tournament, which will be hosted by Waseda University in Japan. Other universities involved include Sydney University, University College Dublin and Oxford University from England.
Esterhuizen told SARugbymag.co.za that he is expecting a tougher challenge this year as awareness about the tournament is growing and teams are taking it far more seriously.
‘I think we are going to go into this one with a similar concept to the one in Oxford,’ Esterhuizen said. ‘It is exciting to go and play in a country like Japan. I am looking forward to see how thing change with it being the second edition of the tournament. Teams are going to take it more seriously.
‘We are expecting a good side from New Zealand, the team from British Columbia is preparing against the Auckland U19s and there is a team from Bordeaux that have held a big campaign to get support for the tournament. So there is quite a bit more awareness about the tournament and teams are going to be more competitive.
‘It definitely gives us a chance to experience a new culture as well. I don’t know what food we are going to get or how we will react,’ Esterhuizen added.
Esterhuizen said that he will be taking as strong a squad as possible as they aim to retain their title. The Tigers are in good form going into the tournament as they top the Western Province Super League A, having lost just one match all season, with one round left.
The tournament will also be Esterhuizen’s final one as head coach as he will step up into the role as UCT’s director of rugby. Thomas Dawson-Squibb will be taking over as head coach for the 2020 season.
‘I have been head coach for the last five years, so I am just moving up to be the director of rugby. Our club has identified that we need better cohesion between the teams. Thomas is more of a mental coach and player manager. So I am excited about the changes.’
The World University Rugby Cup kicks off on 18 September with the final match day scheduled for 23 September.
Photo: Luke Thorrold/VarsitySports