• Varsity Cup preview (final)

    Shimlas and Pukke will be gunning for their first title when they meet in the Varsity Cup final in Bloemfontein on Monday.

    For hosts Shimlas it will be their first ever final, while Pukke will be looking for redemption after having the title snatched from them by UCT in dramatic circumstances at home last year.

    The two teams have taken contrasting routes to the final, with the unbeaten Shimlas seeing off the defending champion Ikeys in their home semi-final and Pukke sneaking into the play-offs before knocking out the table-topping Tuks in their Pretoria semi-final.

    There was not much to choose between the sides when they met in the final round of action before the play-offs, with Shimlas dominating the first half and Pukke fighting back to clinch the two bonus points which secured them fourth spot on the standings.

    On top of all that there is the old rivalry between the teams which is well understood by both coaches who experienced the intensity of the Shimlas-Pukke intervarsity in their playing days.

    Franco Smith and Robert du Preez both played for the Springboks, but before that they did duty for the universities they currently coach and are expecting another huge battle on Monday.

    Smith has turned Shimlas' fortunes around dramatically in his first season in charge, and he is expecting an electric atmosphere at Shimla Park with far more than just bragging rights at stake.

    'The excitement around it has been enormous, a lot of old Shimlas have got involved again so there's a lot of hype in Bloemfontein around the home final,' he said. 'I have been involved previously in my career in a lot of these intervarsities and there's a big sense of that in Bloemfontein, it has definitely added a bit of spice to what is already a big game.'

    Du Preez is expecting a strong contingent of Pukke supporters to make the trip down to Bloemfontein with his side and create an occasion to rival anything from the past.

    'I believe there are a lot of supporters going down which is always nice. Even from my days when I played the Pukke-Shimlas intervarsities were great affairs, and this one won’t be any different,' he said.

    SHIMLAS vs PUKKE
    Shimla Park, Bloemfontein
    Kick-off: 19:00 (SuperSport 1)

    Shimlas – 15 AJ Coertzen (c), 14 Vuyani Maqina, 13 Nico Lee, 12 Tertius Kruger, 11 Maphutha Dolo, 10 Niel Marais, 9 Renier Botha, 8 Niell Jordaan, 7 Gerhard Olivier, 6 Daniel Maartens, 5 Johan van der Hoogt, 4 Henco Venter, 3 Conraad Van Vuuren, 2 Elandre Hugget, 1 Ox Nche.
    Subs: 16 Jacques du Toit, 17 Theunis Nieuwoudt, 18 Boela Venter, 19 De Wet Kruger, 20 Nhlanhla Hlongwane, 21 JP Coetzee, 22 Refuoe Rampete, 23 Dolph Botha.

    Pukke – 15 Rhyno Smith, 14 Dalen Goliath, 13 Rowayne Beukman, 12 Johan Deysel, 11 Dillon Smit, 10 Johnny Welthagen, 9 Malherbe Swart, 8 Jeandre Rudolph (c), 7 Marno Redelinghuys, 6 Armandt Liebenberg, 5 Walt Steenkamp, 4 Loftus Morrison, 3 John-Roy Jenkinson, 2 Wian Fourie, 1 Johan Smith.
    Subs: 16 Wilmar Arnoldi, 17 Mogau Mabokela, 18 Daniel Jordaan, 19 Moletsi Bouwer, 20 Johannes Briers, 21 Marnus Tack, 22 Kurshwill Williams, 23 Cayle Denner.

    By Michael de Vries

    Photo: Van Zyl Naudé/SASPA/Varsity Cup

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    Mariette Adams