Varsity Cup preview (semi-finals)

Both of last year's finalists will play away from home in the Varsity Cup semi-finals on Monday.

Defending champions UCT travel to Bloemfontein to face the unbeaten Shimlas and Pukke take on the table-topping Tuks in Pretoria, with both matches televised live on SuperSport.

The Ikey Tigers and Pukke both won home semi-finals last year, before going on to contest the epic final in Potchefstroom which saw UCT launch an incredible late comeback to clinch their second title.

This year both sides had to work hard for their place in the play-offs, with UCT grinding out an 8-0 win over UJ on the Green Mile last week, while Pukke's two bonus points in a losing cause against Shimlas were enough to get them through.

It will be a first ever home semi-final for Shimlas, who are the only team that did not lose in the round robin phase of the competition, and they should be confident against a UCT side they beat 44-24 at Shimla Park in round six.

Two-time champions Tuks have only lost one game this year, which was against their semi-final opponents Pukke, who beat them 42-37 in an absolute thriller in Potchefstroom back in round four.

In the final round of the Varsity Shield there will be something riding on both games with hosts UKZN and and UWC both bidding to join Wits in the final next week.

The UKZN Impi are just one log point ahead of UWC and take on Fort Hare at Howard College in Durban, while UWC are up against Wits in Bellville.

Meanwhile, the nominees for the Player that Rocks award have been announced, along with the Forward and Back that Rocks, as well as the Varsity Shield awards.

Tuks skipper Wiaan Liebenberg, young NMMU flank CJ Velleman and Pukke fullback Rhyno Smith are the contenders for the coveted Player that Rocks prize.

The Forwards that Rock nominees are all openside flanks, with Velleman joined by Maties' Beyers de Villiers and UCT's Jason Klaasen while in the backs it's between Smith, Shimlas captain AJ Coertzen and UCT flyer Lihleli Xoli.

Shimla Park, Bloemfontein
Kick-off: 16.45 (SuperSport 1)

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

UCT – 15 Khanyo Ngcukana, 14 Richard Stewart, 13 Lihleli Xoli, 12 Guy Schwikkard, 11 Dylan Sage, 10 Warren Seals, 9 Ryan Dugmore, 8 Guy Alexander, 7 Michael Botha (c), 6 Jason Klaasen, 5 James Kilroe, 4 Mark Prior, 3 Kyle Whyte, 2 Chad Solomon, 1 Joel Carew.
Subs: 16 Msizi Zondi, 17 Robin Murray, 18 Jade Kriel, 19 Luke Stringer, 20 Stephen Wallace, 21 Nicholas Holton, 22 Nathan Nel, 23 David Maasch.

Tuks Rugby Stadium, Pretoria
Kick-off: 19.00 (SuperSport 1)

Tuks – 15 Riaan Britz, 14 Damian van Wyk, 13 Daniel Kriel, 12 John Jackson, 11 Jermaine Kleinsmith, 10 Joshua Stander, 9 André Warner, 8 Clyde Davids, 7 Rudolph Smith, 6 Wiaan Liebenberg (c), 5 Reniel Hugo, 4 Irne Herbst, 3 Andrew Beerwinkel, 2 Jan Enslin, 1 Justin Forwood.
Subs: 16 Jan Van der Merwe, 17 Nqobisizwe, 18 Dennis Visser, 19 Hein Viljoen, 20 Emile Temperman, 21 Dewald Human, 22 Adrian Maebane, 23 Dayan van der Westhuizen.

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

By Michael de Vries

Photo: Deaan Vivier/Varsity Cup/SASPA

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