SARugbymag.co.za talks to Ikeys coach Kevin Musikanth about the upcoming Varsity Cup.
Are there any changes to your squad?
There are some changes with players like Tiger Bax not being eligible for the Varsity Cup. Other seasoned campaigners like Dylan Sage, Dillyn Leyds and Derek Asburn are in the same boat, and are either too old to play in the competition or gone overseas. Guys like Ollie Kebble, Sthi Sithole and Mike Willemse are all involved with WP. We have lost some experience, but we have some exciting new blood at the Green Mile chomping at the bit to wear the blue and white.
How has the squad prepared for the competition?
We have been together since October with a huge focus on conditioning. Initially we worked with a very big squad which has now been cut down to the guys who will form part and parcel of our campaign. We have upcoming pre-season matches against our Varsity Shield neighbours UWC next week and then we play SWD and the Kings while on a camp. Pre-season has been tough for the guys, but we are happy with our progression and are well prepared for the next phase which is our warm-up fixtures. The proof, of course, will be in how we perform in said games and then we can apply ourselves to the ultimate challenge – the Varsity Cup.
What have you learned from last year's campaign?
This will be my first year at the helm, so it really is an exciting adventure. I have obviously followed the tournament since its inception and the game is faster and more intense with interesting twists and turns than it was back then. The new rules make it that much more interesting and allows for a more free flowing game, rather than the standard kicking game, which actually suits UCT better. I think we are in for exciting times this year. Players will be able to express themselves more. But those rules also take us into the unknown a bit. It'll be quite interesting to see how teams adapt, but I'm sure every team will have its own element of surprise, as it provides an opportunity for coaches to try and be ahead with regard to how we approach the game's new nuances. The last two years in terms of results have been disappointing for UCT with a lot of near misses. The last quarter of games have cost us in the past and therein lies the lesson.
What are your thoughts on the duel-ref system?
I think it is a positive step for rugby in general. It is impossible, with the pace of the game, for a single ref to always get everything right and the 50/50 part of rugby can often be the difference between winning and losing. With refs being able to communicate with each other during the game there will be two sets of eyes which will enable the rules of the game to be enforced on a more level playing field, perhaps taking that 'grey' area away. So I am a fan.
What are your goals for the tournament?
Any coach who says he doesn't want his team to win the Varsity Cup would be lying, so that is the ultimate goal, but when climbing a mountain one cannot always be focused on the peak; you need to tread carefully forward with each step. So initially our goal would be to win the first match against Pukke, then regroup and look at the game that follows against Maties. And who wouldn't want to beat them.