Will Varsity Cup stay in Cape?
Cape Town - The fifth edition of the popular FNB Varsity Cup presented by Steinhoff International kicks-off on Monday and, again, the question on everybody's lips revolves around the Cape dominance in this tournament thus far.
This Cape dominance had a serious maroon tinge to it between 2008 and 2010 as the FNB Maties racked up a hat-trick of titles, but last year the Ikey Tigers became the second holders of the Varsity Cup when they beat Tuks in a very entertaining final in Pretoria.
So, who are the potential contenders to the Ikeys' throne in 2012?
Well, one would have to say Maties are a danger - the men in maroon having endured a barren 2011 as they failed to collect any serious silverware; at Varsity Cup, WP Super League and National Club Championships level - and so too are UJ (who topped the log last year) and 2011 runners-up, Tuks.
Former champions, the Maties, who are once again under the coaching of one Chean Roux, have some talented players at their disposal this season - especially at loose forward where Helmut Lehmann (their new captain) heads up a trio that also includes a Currie Cup player in Tertius Daniller (at No 8) and the talented Sam Mabombo in the No 6 jersey.
But it's the defending champions UCT who will be playing the first match of the 2012 Varsity Cup tournament when they entertain Shimlas at the Green Mile in a repeat of one of last year's semi-finals - when the Ikeys triumphed 57-20.
Their match will be televised live on SuperSport (kick-off at17:00), followed by the evening's other live match at 19:00 as Tuks entertain UJ in another repeat from last year's Last Four matches. (Last year's second semi-final between UJ and Tuks took place in Johannesburg, with Tuks winning 25-11.)
Monday's other first-round matches will see the Maties entertain the TUT Vikings at the Danie Craven Stadium on Monday (kick-off 19:00), as the visitors look to bounce back from their Wooden Spoon finish in 2011, and the fourth fixture of Round One sees NMMU host NWU-Pukke in Port Elizabeth.
Of course, all eyes will be on the effects of the new points-scoring system in the 2012 Varsity Rugby tournaments (three points for a conversion and two points for a penalty or a drop-goal), the Varsity Shield teams having already experienced this during the week, but the all-new Varsity Young Guns tournament could also steal a few column inches this season.
The Young Guns is an Under-20, students-only tournament and the first two junior fixtures (UCT U20 v Shimlas U20 and NMMU U20 v Pukke U20) will take place in Cape Town and Port Elizabeth, respectively, as the Varsity Shield (Wits v UWC and Fort Hare v UKZN) enters its third round of fixtures on the same day.
But the new points-scoring system, and addition of the Under-20 tournament aside, the added spice of promotion/relegation (giving two Shield teams the opportunity of promotion - at the expense of two Cup teams) will also add to the pressure as Rugby that Rocks gets set to dominate the South African rugby landscape right through until Easter Monday.
Just like it has over the past four years, bring on the Rugby that Rocks and make sure you Back your Boytjies at the same time!
Varsity Cup fixtures and team line-ups for Monday, February 6:
FNB UCT v FNB Shimlas
UCT Rugby Fields (Cape Town)
Kick-off: 17:00 (Live on SuperSport One)
UCT: 15 Dillyn Leyds, 14 Richard Stewart, 13 Damian de Allende, 12 Adrian Kritzinger (vice-captain), 11 Mark Winter, 10 Nick Holton, 9 Nick Farrar, 8 Greg Mallett, 7 Graham Knoop, 6 Ntsolo Setlaba (captain), 5 Levi Odendaal, 4 Pallo Manuel, 3 Shane Meier, 2 Matt Page, 1 Wes Chetty.
Substitutes: 16 Dayne Jans, 17 Francois van Wyk, 18 James Kilroe, 19 James Tatham, 20 Steve Wallace, 21 Michael Morris, 22 Nathan Nel, 23 Digby Webb.
Shimlas: 15 Shaun Davids, 14 Nico Scheepers, 13 Cameron Jacobs, 12 Rynhardt Erwee, 11 Robbie van Schalkwyk, 10 Erick Colyn, 9 Kevin Luiters, 8 Fanie van der Walt, 7 Oupa Nohoje, 6 Pieter Labuschagnè (captain), 5 JC Astle, 4 Joubert Horn, 3 Ian Potgieter, 2 PW van Vuuren, 1 Charles Marais.
Substitutes: 16 JC van Wyk, 17 Kevin Stevens, 18 Wilken Heyns, 19 Armand Koster, 20 Pieter Rademan, 21 Franna du Toit, 22 Earl Snyman, 23 Carl van Heerden.
FNB UP-Tuks v FNB UJ
Tuks Rugby Stadium (Pretoria)
Kick-off: 19:00 (Live on SuperSport One)
Tuks: 15 Clayton Blommetjies; 14 Deon Helberg, 13 Jerome Pretorius, 12 Dabeon Draghoender, 11 Hayden Groepes; 10 Wesley Dunlop, 9 Lohan Jacobs; 8 Jono Ross, 7 Jacques Verwey, 6 Okkie Kruger, 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Mike Williams, 3 Grant Kemp, 2 Zane Botha (captain), 1 Sabelo Nhlapo.
Substitutes: 16 Jacques Momberg, 17 Juan Schoeman, 18 Jono Janse van Rensburg, 19 Lean Schwartz, 20 Clayton Stewart, 21 Willie du Plessis, 22 Riaan Britz, 23 Basil Short.
UJ: 15 Aubrey McDonald, 14 JR Esterhuizen, 13 Luan Steenkamp, 12 Divan van Zyl, 11 Andries Oosthuizen, 10 Guy Cronjé, 9 Jacques Pretorius, 8 Justin Wheeler (captain), 7 Wendal Wehr, 6 Johan van Deventer, 5 Sebastian de Chaves, 4 Shane Kirkwood, 3 Jaco Vermeulen, 2 Francois du Toit, 1 Heinrich Terblanche.
Substitutes: 16 Shaun Malton, 17 Ruan Dreyer, 18 Marnus van Huyssteen, 19 Dylon Peterson, 20 Rudy Paige, 21 Adrian Vermeulen, 22 Chrysander Botha, 23 Njabulo Mkize.
FNB Maties v FNB TUT Vikings
Danie Craven Stadium (Stellenbosch)
Maties: 15 Ryan Nell, 14 Dean Hammond, 13 Wessel Coetzee, 12 Louis Jordaan, 11 Tythan Adams, 10 André Kemp, 9 Boela Abrahams, 8 Tertius Daniller, 7 Helmut Lehmann (captain), 6 Sam Mabombo, 5 Hugo Kloppers, 4 Grant Hattingh, 3 Os Hamman, 2 Rob Herring, 1 Alistair Vermaak.
Substitutes: 16 Alfred Ries, 17 Brummer Badenhorst, 18 Reniel Hugo, 19 JP Swanepoel, 20 Donald Stevens, 21 André Smith, 22 Clearance Khumalo, 23 Hein van der Merwe.
TUT: 15 Brahm du Preez, 14 Craig Pheiffer, 13 Rikus de Beer, 12 Hagen Munba, 11 Ruan van Loo, 10 Hansie Graaff, 9 Nico Smuts, 8 Wikus Botes, 7 Yves Basiya, 6 Ryno Coetzee, 5 Steph Nel, 4 Ewald Mare, 3 Dandre van der Westhuyzen, 2 Johan Pieterse (captain), 1 Coert van Gerve.
Substitutes: 16 Zandre Grobler, 17 Nico van den Heever, 18 Gavin Engelbrecht, 19 Ryno Lopes, 20 Rhuwanne Pienaar, 21 Melcolm Griffiths, 22 Craig van Rooi, 23 Nathi Sethusse.
FNB NMMU v FNB NWU-Pukke
Xerox NMMU Stadium (Port Elizabeth)
NMMU: 15 Gerrit Smith, 14 Eckard Jacobs, 13 Quinton Crocker, 12 Howard Mnisi, 11 Mayibuye Ndwandwa, 10 Martin du Toit, 9 Anton Verster, 8 Jaco Swanepoel (captain), 7 Ulrich Pretorius, 6 Jaco Otto, 5 Mathew Lutge, 4 Mzwanele Zito, 3 Ross David-Anderson, 2 Martin Ferreira, 1 Roy Godfrey.
Substitutes: 16 Kobus Greeff, 17 Phillip Nel, 18 Louis Fourie, 19 Thomasau Forbes, 20 Marlin Ruiters, 21 Bradley Kretzman, 22 Devon Lailvaux, 23 Gareth Hartley.
Pukke: 15 SW Oosthuizen, 14 Andrew van Wyk, 13 Hennie Scorbinski, 12 Joubert Engelbrecht (captain), 11 Joe Seerane, 10 Gerhard Nortier, 9 Tiaan Dorfling, 8 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 Zander de Kock, 18 Lodewyk Uys, 19 Siya Mdaka, 20 Andries Botha, 21 Ruan Jacobs, 22 Terswin Raubenheimer, 23 Mashudu Mafela.