2023 – The year that was

As we come to the end of 2023, it presents an opportunity to reflect on another year gone by.

Varsity Cup ‘23 – The Ikeys turned over Stones

On the back of making the un-played semi-finals in a COVID disrupted 2020 campaign, a 7-point loss in the ‘21 final, and a semi-final loss in ’22, the goal in ’23 was clear.

While winning is our aim, it is not enough on its own. Purpose has always been at the forefront of this club – building young people who can express their talents and grow through experiencing being part of something that values competing, connection with others and being truly real. Joy must trump fear, relationships over selfishness, individualism over conformity, human capital over resources.

Tom Dawson-Squibb, our head coach, and his incredible management team consistently drive these values. This takes time, intention, and energy. If one looks at surveys done by the players post their season it is clear that players are having life-altering experiences at UCT– and long may that last.

The Ikey Tigers create a theme for each Varsity Cup campaign, and in 2023 the theme – Turning over Stones – came from the idea of leaving no stone unturned in one’s quest to achieve a goal. Music is always a key ingredient, hence the theme evolving into The Rolling Stones. And for those Stones fans out there, we certainly got some satisfaction!

VC ’23 was remarkably evenly matched, delivering some big surprises, including the relegation of reigning champs, and multiple tournament winners, Tukkies. This meant we could never take a game for granted and, while UCT ended 3rd on the log, only a single victory separated us from 7th place and a promotion-relegation game. Despite a couple of mid-campaign slip ups, the Ikeys finished the round robin stage strongly, taking that form into the semi-finals, where we beat Shimlas 65-30 in a performance for the ages.

It was not to be in the final, sadly, which saw the star-studded NWU Eagles (formerly Pukke) edge the Ikeys by just 2 points in Potch. It was a fantastic match, one considered by many to be the best Varsity Cup final they’d seen, but to stumble at the final hurdle for the second time in three years has certainly left some unfinished business….

The U20 Ikey Cubs gave a good account of themselves in the Young Guns tournament, just missing out on making a semi-final. This was disappointing, but they were hampered by injuries and call ups to the 1st XV and WP U20. In reality, the junior section of the club was the strongest it’s been in several years.

WP Super A league – UCT 2nd team Eagles victorious

After the glamour of Varsity Cup Mondays, it was back to more traditional wet and muddy Saturday afternoons and Wednesday nights. The 1st team enjoyed a great league campaign, blooding many young players as the Currie Cup, SA U20 and WP U21 came calling – an honour in itself, but a brutal test of squad depth! In particular, the away victories away against False Bay and Durbell rank among the finest in recent years. UCT finished 2nd on the log, and bowed out in the semi-finals – a game played whilst we had both a 30-man squad on tour in France, and a large representation in the championship winning WP U21 side. The team that played this semi was largely made up of the 2nd team Eagles who had just won the league for the first time in many years. Credit must go to all the players and the coaching staff led by Chris de Klerk.

WURIT 2023 in Bordeaux

The highlight of the year – and the highlight of many of our players lives – was the tour to Bordeaux to play in the 3rd World Universities Rugby Invitation Tournament in September. Again sans our WP U21 players, and despite much stiffer competition, the Ikeys took home the WURIT trophy for the 3rd time in succession, beating home team, University of Bordeaux, in a tight final. Throw in a victory over the Combined New Zealand Universities team, a life-changing experience for the boys, and this augers well for 2024. The boys won when it counted.

Your support is much appreciated

The club operates almost entirely on the efforts and donations of a small group of alumni. UCT provides little support to any sport – which is understandable given its competing priorities – but this is very different to any of our competitors. Thank you to all those who have given of their time and money. And particularly thanks to the amazing group of coaches, managers, and medics – all of whom are at the very least semi-volunteers given what we are able to pay them.

A final word of thanks and farewell to Jonathan Biderman-Pam who as club director brought energy, charisma, humour and hard work to his role. Jonny will tell you that his own life has been changed by his association with the Ikeys, while his efforts have helped change many lives, and make the Ikeys such a special club. He leaves a huge hole, he will be missed, and goes with all our thanks.

Please keep the support coming, realise that it this shared community that actually makes all the effort worthwhile. This great club is actively changing lives right before our eyes.

2024 Varsity Cup

In a new initiative aimed at sharing some insider insight on next year’s Varsity Cup campaign (including the odd post from head coach Tom), we have started a WhatsApp community. To join, please CLICK HERE.

Being well aware of the deluge of WhatsApp groups and messages, our plan is not to add to that, instead to offer exclusive insight into, and news about, the Ikey Tigers squad as they build toward Varsity Cup 2024 …

Yours in Blue and White,

Greg Fury (UCT RFC Chairman)