Varsity Cup action hotting up
Cape Town - Four teams are involved in a dog-fight for that all-important fourth place on the Varsity Cup log, as the 2012 edition of this exciting student rugby tournament heads into Round Five on Monday, March 5.
Maties, UP-Tuks and UJ are currently leading the way in first, second and third place, respectively - the Maties, on 17 points, still unbeaten and Tuks (15) and UJ (15) having tasted defeat just once each so far.
In fourth place, NWU-Pukke (11) will travel to Cape Town this week to take on an out-of-sorts UCT (in sixth position on six points), the defending champions having suffered a shock 21-23 loss to the NMMU Madibaz (who are now in fifth place with nine points) in Round Four.
The Madibaz have a slightly tougher fixture this coming Monday, when they entertain the three-times champions Maties in PE, but a good performance from NMMU against the men in maroon could see them take a giant step towards a first-ever semi-final place.
UCT and the Shimlas (in seventh place), however, cannot afford another loss in the next three weeks but it does not get any easier for the teams from Cape Town and Bloemfontein as they take on NWU-Pukke and UP-Tuks, respectively, in this week's televised matches.
The Ikeys have beaten Pukke in their last two encounters, but the men from Potchefstroom have won twice before in Cape Town - in the first-ever Varsity Cup match at the Green Mile in 2008 and in the 2009 semi-finals.
"We're expecting nothing less than a physical Pukke team who will be trying to out-muscle us on the day," said Ikeys coach Kevin Foote.
"We know it won't be an easy game, but ourselves, Pukke and Shimlas are currently all in the same boat as we cannot afford to lose another game in the run-in to the semi-finals."
The defending champions have won just one of their first four matches this season and after Monday's home match against Pukke, they must then travel to Stellenbosch (to take on Maties) before ending off at home against the impressive Tuks side. They have to win all three of their upcoming games in order to qualify for a fifth successive Varsity Cup semi-final.
"We've dug a very deep hole for ourselves," said Foote, "We know what we need to do to get out of it and we're certainly going to give it our best shot to get out!"
While UCT are battling for consistent form this season, UJ - along with Maties and Tukkies - have been the form side of 2012.
The men from Johannesburg started the season very slowly with an 8-23 defeat to Tuks, but they have since notched up successive wins over UCT (29-15), NMMU (48-18) and Shimlas (50-18).
They still have to face the Maties - from the 'comfort' of Johannesburg - but this week they will be looking to hammer yet another nail into TUT's coffin. (TUT are the only winless team in the 2012 Varsity Cup and favourites to be relegated at the end of the season.)
"One thing we learnt from last year's Varsity Cup is that you cannot ever rest on your laurels," said UJ head coach Hugo van As, who’s side topped the log last season - only to lose, at home, in the semi-finals to Tuks.
"The key for us is to maintain the momentum which we've gathered over the last three rounds and to stay focused. We're certainly not under-estimating TUT, but we need to deliver another good performance to keep our confidence and form up heading into our last two games against NWU-Pukke and Maties."
The UJ boss has made a few last-minute changes to his team for Monday's TUT clash, the most interesting which sees Namibian Rugby World Cup star Theuns 'Worsie' Kotze back at flyhalf, with points-machine Guy Cronjé - the leading points-scorer in the 2012 Varsity Cup - getting a deserved rest on the bench.
Said Van As: "I think the trio of Worsie, Guy and (scrumhalf) Rudy Paige is working well together and I thought Worsie showed his form of old against Shimlas. He's a special footballer and while I've been very satisfied with his contribution, there's always room for improvement - starting with Monday against TUT.
"Don't be fooled by TUT's current record or log standing," added Van As, "I know the danger they pose and there's no such thing as an easy match in the Varsity Cup - as NMMU have shown twice this season."
Varsity Cup fixtures and team line-ups for Monday, March 5:
UCT v NWU-Pukke
UCT Rugby Fields (Cape Town)
Kick-off: 5pm (Live on SuperSport One)
UCT: 15 Dillyn Leyds, 14 Damian de Allende, 13 Tiger Bax, 12 Michael Morris, 11 Mark Winter, 10 Nick Holton, 9 Liam Slatem, 8 Rayn Smid, 7 Zandy Macdonald, 6 Ntsolo Setlaba (captain), 5 Levi Odendaal, 4 Don Armand, 3 Francois van Wyk, 2 Dayne Jans, 1 Wes Chetty.
Substitutes: 16 Neil Rautenbach, 17 Adriaan Botha, 18 Brad Bosman, 19 Greg Mallett, 20 Ricky Schroeder, 21 Paul Cohen, 22 Nathan Nel, 23 Digby Webb.
NWU-Pukke: 15 Malan van der Merwe, 14 Andrew van Wyk, 13 Ruan Jacobs, 12 Joubert Engelbrecht (captain), 11 Joe Seerane, 10 Gerhard Nortier, 9 Tiaan Dorfling, 8 Juan 'Spanner' Pretorius, 7 Ernie Strydom, 6 Philip de Wet, 5 Victor Kruger, 4 Siyanda Ndlovu, 3 John-Roy Jenkinson, 2 JC Oberholzer, 1 Henry Scharneck.
Substitutes: 16 Marius Fourie, 17 Martin Dreyer, 18 Lodewyk Uys, 19 Siya Mdaka, 20 Andries Botha, 21 SW Oosthuizen, 22 Terswin Raubenheimer, 23 Mashudu Mafela.
UP-Tuks v Shimlas
Tuks Rugby Stadium (Pretoria)
Kick-off: 19:00 (Live on SuperSport One)
UP-Tuks: 15 Riaan Britz, 14 Deon Helberg, 13 Jerome Pretorius, 12 Dabeon Draghoender, 11 Hayden Groepes, 10 Wesley Dunlop, 9 Lohan Jacobs, 8 Okkie Kruger, 7 Daniel Adongo, 6 Jacques Verwey, 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Mike Williams, 3 Grant Kemp, 2 Zane Botha (captain), 1 Sabelo Nhlapo.
Substitutes: 16 Jacques Momberg, 17 Juan Schoeman, 18 Sthembiso Mlongo, 19 Lean Schwartz, 20 Clayton Stewart, 21 Willie du Plessis, 22 Wynand Pienaar, 23 Basil Short.
Shimlas: 15 Nico Scheepers, 14 Divandré Strydom, 13 Robbie van Schalkwyk, 12 Earl Snyman, 11 Jamba Ulengo, 10 Erick Colyn, 9 Kevin Luiters, 8 Erik le Roux, 7 Fanie van der Walt, 6 Freddie Ngoza, 5 Joubert Horn, 4 Wilken Heyns, 3 Stephan Kotze, 2 Michael van Vuuren, 1 Charles Marais.
Substitutes: 16 JC van Wyk, 17 John-Henry Harris, 18 Lebo Zietsman, 19 Armand Koster, 20 Pieter Rademan, 21 Reinhardt Erwee, 22 Stephan van der Merwe, 23 Carl van Heerden.
UJ v TUT
UJ Stadium (Johannesburg)
UJ: 15 Aubrey McDonald, 14 JR Esterhuizen, 13 Justin St. Jerry, 12 Divan van Zyl, 11 Chrysander Botha, 10 Worsie Kotze, 9 Rudy Paige, 8 Justin Wheeler (captain), 7 Wendal Wehr, 6 Johan van Deventer, 5 Sebastian de Chaves, 4 Shane Kirkwood, 3 Jaco Vermeulen, 2 Shaun Malton, 1 Heinrich Terblanche.
Replacements: 16 Jacques Gnade, 17 Njabulo Mkize, 18 Marnus van Huyssteen, 19 RJ Liebenberg, 20 Jacques Pretorius, 21 Guy Cronjé, 22 Luan Steenkamp, 23 Anthony Gallacher.
TUT: 15 Brahm du Preez, 14 Craig van Rooi, 13 Rikus de Beer, 12 Koos Kotze, 11 Ruan van Loo, 10 Hansie Graaff, 9 Manny Raposo, 8 Wikus Botes (captain), 7 Peter Matthews, 6 Yves Basiya, 5 Ewald Maree, 4 Gavin Engelbrecht, 3 Zandre Grobler, 2 Nathi Sethusi, 1 Dandre van der Westhuyzen.
Substitutes: 16 Coert van Gerve, 17 Nico van den Heever, 18 Joel Kapena, 19 Ryno Coetzee, 20 Nico Smuts, 21 Quinton van Greunen, 22 Thabo Mangena, 23 Ryno van Rooyen.
NMMU v Maties
Xerox NMMU Stadium (Port Elizabeth)
NMMU: 15 Martin du Toit, 14 Mayibuye Ndwandwa, 13 Quinton Crocker (vice-captain), 12 Howard Mnisi, 11 Eckard Jacobs, 10 Bradley Kretzman, 9 Charlie Purdon, 8 Jaco Swanepoel (captain), 7 André Goosen, 6 Ulrich Pretorius, 5 Mzwanele Zito, 4 Schalk Oelofse, 3 Ross David-Anderson, 2 Kobus Greeff, 1 Dexter Fahey.
Substitutes: 16 Francois Coetzer, 17 Roy Godfrey, 18 Timothy Agaba, 19 Jaco Otto, 20 Marlin Ruiters, 21 Carl van Niekerk, 22 Devon Lailvaux, 23 Gareth Hartley.
Maties: 15 André Smith, 14 Ryan Nell, 13 Wessel Coetzee, 12 Louis Jordaan, 11 Dean Hammand, 10 André Kemp, 9 Boela Abrahams, 8 JP Swanepoel, 7 Helmut Lehmann (captain), 6 Sam Mabombo, 5 Hugo Kloppers, 4 Grant Hattingh, 3 Os Hamman, 2 Rob Herring, 1 Brummer Badenhorst.
Substitutes: 16 Alfred Ries, 17 Alistair Vermaak, 18 Reniel Hugo, 19 Nicholas de Jager, 20 Donald Stevens, 21 Jarryd Buys, 22 Clearance Khumalo, 23 Hein van der Merwe.