UCT or UJ to go all the way?
If history is anything to go by, then the home sides should triumph in tonight’s Varsity Cup semifinals. However, as the three-times defending champion Maties found out last week, the FNB Varsity Cup presented by Steinhoff International has been anything but cast in stone this season.
Tonight’s semifinals will be the first-ever without the Maties, who hosted semifinals in 2008, 2009 and 2010.
UCT are now the only side in the four-year history of this competition to have hosted four semifinals in a row... although they also hold the unenviable record of being the only team to have lost a home semifinal (to Pukke in 2009) in the Varsity Cup.
The day's first semifinal - a repeat of one of last year's fixtures - will see UCT play host to the Shimlas at 4.45pm.
"What has happened before, or might lie ahead, is not on our minds at all," cautioned the Ikeys' coach Kevin Foote on varsitycup.co.za.
"Shimlas have that typical Free State mentality in that they can turn it on on the day and beat any side - no matter where or what odds might be against them. Just look at how the Cheetahs managed to beat the Waratahs away two weeks ago... that's what Shimlas are like - they're a dangerous team."
With his players on a high after their 19-17 come-from-behind triumph over Tuks in Pretoria last Monday, Foote and his team have had a good week at training. However, he revealed that team selection had thrown up a few problems.
"There's been a few distractions, if you can call them that. Our SA Under-20 guys got back late this week and losing a guy like Danger [Dayne Jans] has affected our student 'quota'.
"But, at the end of the day, I've picked a bunch of mates to go out there and win the semifinal for us," he added.
With the UCT-Shimlas fixture set to throw up some head-to-heads of old, UJ and Tuks will meet for the first time ever in a Varsity Cup semifinal (kick-off 7pm); the home side no doubt favourites after their stunning end to the league phase of the Varsity Cup.
The Men from Johannesburg collected a full haul of ten points on the road; against UCT and Maties in Round Six and Seven, which no other team in the history of the Varsity Cup has ever achieved.
"UJ have been the pace-setters from the outset and again showed their class with those bonus point away wins," admitted Tuks coach Nollis Marais this week.
"The emphatic wins against Ikeys and Maties would have done wonders for their confidence and momentum. On the other hand, we are coming straight from a very disappointing performance against the Ikeys and have not managed to make consistency an ally.
"(But) no matter how we qualified for the play-offs, the fact remains that we deserve to have another bite at the championship apple," he added.
"We will do everything humanly possible to make the most of this opportunity... semifinals are, after all, made for upsets."
Whilst the Tuks coach believes that their Round Five win over UJ - at the UJ Stadium - will matter for little going into Monday, star UJ loose forward Cameron Peverett has singled out that defeat - by 23-38 - as his team's pivotal moment of the season.
"That Tuks loss came at a good time for us," Peverett, a three-times Varsity Cup winner with the Maties between 2008 and 2010, told varsitycup.co.za.
"It was just before our two (away) matches in the Cape and it made us realise just how make or break those last two games were.
"We hit some form against UCT and it's been a progressive improvement since then - as we showed against the Maties. We won't be changing anything for Monday. Our expansive game served us well against UCT and the Maties, (so) hopefully we can maintain that form and approach in the play-offs.
"The coach gives us freedom here, to play how we want," he added, "and I think our results, especially over the past two weeks, speak for themselves."
Of course, come Monday results are all that matter with that final place up for grabs. There are no second chances in matches of this magnitude.
Varsity Cup semifinal fixtures and team line-ups for Monday, March 28:
UCT v Shimlas
Kick-off: 4.45pm (Live on SuperSport One)
Groote Schuur (Cape Town)
Referee: Ben Crouse
Assistant referees: Quinton Immelman, Marius van der Westhuizen
TMO: Shaun Veldsman
UCT: 15 Therlow Pietersen, 14 Ricky Rijs, 13 Marcel Brache, 12 Adrian Kritzinger, 11 Mark Winter, 10 Demetri Catrakilis, 9 Nicholas Farrar, 8 Greg Mallett, 7 Nick Fenton-Wells (captain), 6 Michael Morris, 5 Donovan Armand, 4 Levi Odendaal, 3 Shane Meier, 2 Matt Page, 1 Wesley Chetty.
Replacements: 16 Neil Rautenbach, 17 Francois van Wyk, 18 Eben Etzebeth, 19 Zandy Macdonald, 20 Ricky Schroeder, 21 Pete Haw, 22 Sabelo Siyakatshana, 23 Pete Olivier.
Shimlas: 15 George Whitehead, 14 Cameron Jacobs, 13 Earl Snyman, 12 Charl Weideman, 11 Jamba Ulengo, 10 Jaco Colyn, 9 Enrico Acker, 8 Willie Britz (captain), 7 Pieter Labuschagnè, 6 Etienne Terblanche, 5 Joubert Horn, 4 Wilken Heyns, 3 Ian Potgieter, 2 Hercu Liebenberg, 1 John-Henry Harris.
Replacements: 16 JC Van Wyk, 17 Johan van Niekerk, 18 Frederick Ngoza, 19 Erik le Roux, 20 Franna du Toit, 21 Shaun Davids, 22 Divandre Strydom, 23 Charles Marais.
UJ v Tuks
Kick-off: 7pm (Live on SuperSport One)
UJ Stadium (Johannesburg)
Referee: Tiaan Jonker
Assistant referees: Rasta Rasivhenge, Gerrie de Bruin
TMO: Gerrie Coetzee
UJ: 15 Theuns Kotze, 14 Aubrey McDonald, 13 Justin St. Jerry, 12 Luan Steenkamp, 11 Lolo Waka, 10 André Smith, 9 Rudi Paige, 8 Cameron Peverett, 7 Justin Wheeler (captain), 6 Wendal Wehr, 5 Marnus van Huyssteen, 4 Johan Snyman, 3 Ruan Dreyer, 2 Alfred Ries, 1 Caylib Oosthuizen.
Replacements: 16 Thurston Zimri, 17 Ollie Terblanche, 18 Shane Kirkwood, 19 Johan van Deventer, 20 Jacques Pretorius, 21 Divan van Zyl, 22 Wigan Pekeur, 23 Anthony Gallacher.
Tuks: 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Deon Helberg, 13 Jean du Plessis, 12 Dabeon Draghoender, 11 Hayden Groepes, 10 Wesley Dunlop (captain), 9 Danie Faasen, 8 Jono Ross, 7 Jacques Verwey, 6 Warwick Tecklenburg, 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Nqubeko Zulu, 3 Stephan Pretorius, 2 Robbie Coetzee, 1 Vincent Koch.
Replacements: 16 Chris Crous, 17 Jean Rossouw, 18 Luvuyiso Lusaseni, 19 Willie Nel, 20 Clayton Stewart, 21 JC Roos, 22 GD Kotzee, 23 Grant Kemp.
What happens if the scores are level at full-time in Monday's semifinals?
If the scores are level after the scheduled regular time, twenty minutes extra-time (ten minutes each way) will be played with a one-minute break. If the scores are still equal, a kick-out will be held.
How the kick-out works:
- Each team chooses five players to place-kick from a designated point on the field as instructed by the Tournament Director or the referee
- If the teams still cannot be separated, then the kicks will be done on sudden-death basis
- The same five players can kick again but the sequence must stay the same.