The UCT Ikey Tigers beat the University of Bordeaux in the final of the World University Rugby Invitational Tournament in Bordeaux on Thursday to retain their status as world champions for another four years.
After winning the inaugural tournament in 2015, hosted by the University of Oxford in England, then defending their title in 2019 at the University of Waseda in Japan, the Ikey Tigers found themselves in a truly unique position to make it three on the bounce in Bordeaux.
Having suffered their first ever loss in the tournament to the hosts in the pool stages, the final offered up a chance to settle the score. And while the 17-20 scoreline might suggest a relatively close encounter, this was a game bossed by the men in blue and white. The pack offered up the tries, one for Troy Fisher off the back of a powerful maul, the other for Jason Macleod-Smith off the back of a monstrous scrum. Tournament top scorer, Ntokozo Makhaza, made no mistake with the conversions, and added two penalties for good measure.
The World University Rugby Invitational Tournament (WURIT) is a bit of a mouthful, and also something that has tended to slide beneath the radar, despite this being the third edition. It’s an international rugby tournament organised every four years in the country hosting the Rugby World Cup, that looks to bring together teams from the world’s top universities.
The 2023 Ikeys squad, coached by Rob Fleck, and skippered by Luthando Woji, arrived in Bordeaux late on Monday, 18 September, and were set the task of taking on both the Combined New Zealand Universities and University of British Columbia sides on Thursday, 21 September.
The unique tournament format sees teams playing normal 15-a-side rugby in games consisting of two, 20-minute halves, with sides then playing two games a day on the first two match days of the tournament. Rolling subs are allowed throughout the games.
All players at the tournament have to be full-time students, as per the Varsity Cup rules, which suits UCT nicely. Some of the attending universities sport mostly open sides in their leagues, though, hence them needing to put together combined university sides made up of just students.
The Ikey Tigers edged out the Kiwis by three points in game one – perhaps a nice wake-up – and then comfortably beat the Canadians later in the day. On Day 2 of the tournament, the Ikeys suffered their first-ever WURIT loss at the hands of hosts, Bordeaux, before bouncing back to hammer the combined team from the USA.
Having already secured a spot in the semi-finals, the men in blue and white seemed to take their foot off the gas in another reverse on Day 3, this time in their final pool game against the Sydney-siders, who ironically, still missed out on the semis.
It was back to business for the Ikeys in their semi-final against the Kiwis, although it took a yeoman defensive effort in the last few minutes to keep the men-in-black out. UCT held on to win 19-14 with tries from openside Sipho Dyonase, and fullback Makhaza (2), who went on to convert both his tries.
Ikey results and scorers at WURIT 2023:
DAY 1 – 21 September
Ikeys 16-13 New Zealand (Tries: Makhaza, Fredericks. Pen: Makhaza (2))
Ikeys 24-7 British Columbia (Tries: Davis (2), Ndudula, Kruger. Con: Makhaza, Vermeulen)
DAY 2 – 23 September
Ikeys 13-16 Bordeaux (Tries: Vermeulen, Nel. Pen: Vermeulen)
Ikeys 43-7 USA All Stars (Tries: Roy, Hayes, M Macleod-Smith, Nel, Davis (2), Vermeulen. Con: Vermeulen (4))
DAY 3 – 25 September
Ikeys 5-10 Sydney (Try: Castle)
Semi-final – 26 September
Ikeys 19-14 New Zealand (Tries: Dyonase, Makhaza (2). Con: Makhaza (2))
Final – 28 September
Ikeys 20-17 Bordeaux (Tries: Fisher, J Macleod-Smith Pen: Makhaza (2) Con: Makhaza (2))
Ikeys 2024 squad:
Backs: Alex Vermeulen, Chris Roy, David Hayes, Hlumelo Ndudula, Josh Boulle, Kyle Lamb, Lezane Davis, Luca de Leo, Lyle Hendricks, Ntokozo Makhaza, Rethabile Louw, Rihaz Fredericks, Tom Nel
Forwards: Adam de Waal, Alex Castle, Bryan le Roux, Luthando Woji, Jovan Bekker, Jac van der Walt, Johan van Rhyn, JL de Lange, Jason Macleod-Smith, Mika Schubert, Matthew Macleod-Smith, Matthew Beckett, Mhleli Khuzwayo, Reynhardt Crous, Sipho Dyonase, Taariq Kruger, Troy Fisher
Management: Rob Fleck, Mike van Rheede, Piet Cilliers, Raun Billett