• Varsity Cup greats: Shaun McDonald

    In the second of a series looking back at the best Varsity Cup players, DYLAN JACK shows how lock Shaun McDonald helped UCT win their second title in 2014.

    Having playing for the Western Province U18 team during his schooling at Tygerberg High, McDonald had a long journey to when he helped the University of Cape Town secure one of the famous comeback wins in the 2014 final.

    McDonald joined the Lions after school and initially looked set for a good career in Johannesburg – showing his potential with their junior side in the U21 Provincial Championship, which also included future Springboks Rudy Paige and Jaco Kriel.

    However, McDonald then chose to return to Cape Town and played for club side Victorians in the Western Province Super League. Ironically, he faced UCT, who were then Varsity Cup champions, in the 2011 Super League final.

    He continued to play club rugby for Villagers and then joined UCT for their 2013 Varsity Cup campaign, where they finished seventh after winning just one of their seven fixtures.

    However, things turned around for both McDonald and the Ikey Tigers in 2014. UCT started their season with a 47-24 home loss to North-West University – who they would meet again in the final – in a game in which McDonald scored one of their three tries. However, from there, UCT would lose just one of their remaining fixtures, in a run that included a memorable win over rivals Maties in Stellenbosch.

    McDonald more than brought his own during this run as he scored five tries and produced some bruising displays to help the Ikey Tigers progress to the final, where they met NWU in Potchefstroom. The game would go down in rugby folklore as one of the great comebacks. Finding themselves 33-15 down to NWU in the final five minutes, the Capetonians somehow pulled themselves back into the contest and stole the title in a remarkable final passage of play.

    Following the tournament, McDonald was named as the ‘Forward that Rocks’ and recruited to the then Carlos Spencer-coached EP Kings. After three seasons in Port Elizabeth (now Gqeberha), McDonald had stints with the Boland Cavaliers and Griquas. While his professional career never quite matched the highs of his club career, his contributions to UCT in 2014 will not be forgotten.

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    Photo: Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images

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    Dylan Jack