Varsity Cup boost for UCT
Marcel Brache (Gallo Images)
Cape Town - The FNB Ikey Tigers have been boosted ahead of Monday's Varsity Cup final against FNB Tuks by the return - to their starting team - of Eben Etzebeth, Nic Groom, Tim Whitehead and Marcel Brache.
Scrumhalf Groom and centre Whitehead missed UCT's 57-20 semi-final trouncing of the FNB Shimlas two Mondays ago, but will bolster an Ikeys backline shorn of the services of the desperately unlucky Adrian Kritzinger.
Kritzinger has started the majority of UCT's matches at inside centre this season, only to suffer a Varsity Cup-ending against Shimlas - breaking his collarbone in two places after just 12 minutes - a game in which he was making a return from a previous injury.
But having WP Vodacom Cup players Whitehead and Marcel Brache (who came off the bench against Shimlas) back at centre - the duo having started against Tuks last time out in Pretoria - will be a major boost to the Ikeys.
In their only other Varsity Cup game together this year, Whitehead was instrumental in securing the tight 19-17 victory over Tuks at the same venue when his off-load put centre partner Marcel Brache through for the Ikeys' only try of the game.
Groom, of course, will provide snappy service at halfback and keep his forward pack on their toes with his running game. His back-up at No 9 will be South African under-20 scrumhalf Ricky Schroeder, with Nick Farrar missing out on selection altogether.
UCT will be looking to pick up from where they left off in their 57-20 demolition of Shimlas a fortnight ago, but with the addition of the physical Etzebeth (pictured) - also back from SA U20 duty - it is clear that they are gearing up for a massive onslaught up front from Tuks.
With Etzebeth back at lock, where he will partner Levi Odendaal, Don Armand has moved back to flank - giving UCT three very tall line-out options; not to mention another jumping option in the shape of No 8 Greg Mallett.
Joining Mallett and Armand in the back row, of course, will be UCT's ultra-consistent captain Nick Fenton-Wells - the only Ikeys player, along with flyhalf Demetri Catrakilis and fullback Therlow Pietersen, to have started every game this season.
Fenton-Wells and his Ikeys will be desperate to lift this coveted trophy - for the first time ever - after making the semifinals in all three years of the competition and losing out in two finals; both time to the Maties.
15 Therlow Pietersen, 14 Pete Haw, 13 Marcel Brache, 12 Tim Whitehead, 11 Ricky Rijs, 10 Demetri Catrakilis, 9 Nic Groom, 8 Greg Mallett, 7 Nick Fenton-Wells (captain), 6 Don Armand, 5 Levi Odendaal, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Shane Meier, 2 Matt Page, 1 Wesley Chetty
Substitutes: 16 Neil Rautenbach, 17 Francois van Wyk, 18 Michael Morris, 19 Zandy Macdonald, 20 Ricky Schroeder, 21 Mark Winter, 22 Sabelo Siyakatshana, 23 Pete Olivier.
15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Deon Helberg, 13 Jean du Plessis, 12 Dabeon Draghoender, 11 Hayden Groepes, 10 Wesley Dunlop (captain), 9 Danie Faasen, 8 Arno Botha, 7 Jono Ross, 6 Warwick Tecklenburg, 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Nqubeko Zulu, 3 Stephan Pretorius, 2 Robbie Coetzee, 1 Vincent Koch
Substitutes: 16 Chris Crous, 17 Jean Rossouw, 18 Luvuyiso Lusaseni, 19 Jacques Verwey, 20 Clayton Stewart, 21 JC Roos, 22 Gerhardus Kotzee, 23 Grant Kemp
Referee: Quinton Immelman
Assistant referees: Rasta Rashivenga, Stefan Geldenhuys
TMO: Johann Meuwesen