FNB UCT head coach John Dobson, whilst pleased with his team’s 36-17 Varsity Cup win over NMMU on Monday night, was even more thrilled in which the whole occasion in Port Elizabeth honoured the late Monte Taljaard – the man whose name is on the trophy that Ikey Tigers captain JJ Gagiano held aloft at the Xerox NMMU Stadium.
Monte Taljaard was a popular member of the UCT Rugby Club – and a first team squad member – and was set to play a huge role in UCT’s 2009 FNB Varsity Cup presented by Steinhoff International campaign.
Sadly, Monte – a Grey PE old boy – passed away in a car accident last September, prompting the Ikey Tigers to play with the word ‘Monte’ on their collars throughout the 2009 season.
But the Varsity Cup organisers also got on board and allowed UCT and NMMU to play for the Monte Taljaard Trophy, a cup that will be up for grabs in all future clashes between these two sides.
As it turns out, UCT beat NMMU 36-17 to claim the inaugural Taljaard Trophy, but it was quite an emotional evening for both sides – who were introduced to Monte’s parents before the match – whilst Gagiano received the trophy afterwards from the Taljaards.
“I’ve said it before, but I will say it again; Monte was a once-in-a-generation guy and player. He is still missed at the club to this day and will never be forgotten,” Dobson told uctrfc.co.za.
“We’re very pleased to have honoured him with a win, but something like Monte’s death puts into perspective league points and wins and losses. For us it was far more important that we honoured his proud memory with the whole occasion.
“The team was very determined to play for Monts and honour him,” added the Ikeys coach. “To paraphrase the quote from Chariots of Fire, ‘Out of tragic necessity, his dreams have become ours’.”
The obvious emotions aside, Dobson admitted to being happy with his team’s fourth victory of the season.
He said: “We made 11 changes for this match, a few too many given a couple of injuries, so it was always a bit of a risk.
“But as I’ve explained before we have a campaign management project which we hope will take us into the play-offs with a fully-fit and motivated squad to choose from.”
One blot on the Ikeys’ copybook was lock Michael Passaportis’ 41st-minute red card, which saw the Ikeys playing with just 14 men for virtually the entire second half.
“The red card seemed a bit harsh,” said Dobson. “I’m not quite sure what Michael got sent off for, but we’ll take a look and try to ensure that there is no further censure (for him).
“We lost a lot of shape when he left the field,” continued Dobson, “so that wasn’t easy for us, but the guys did well to hold off NMMU, who are a very good side. They fought back strongly after going down 19-0 and they certainly made us sweat for the victory.”
Next up for UCT are FNB Shimlas – at home on March 9, kick-off 6.45pm – the Men from Bloemfontein having smashed Tukkies 39-22 at Shimla Park on Monday afternoon.
“I saw that result,” said Dobson, “but I haven’t obviously had a chance to watch that game yet. Shimlas are a good side, but they just haven’t got the results this season.
“We have a bit to work on in training this week and then I will also have to see who is available for selection next week,” he added.
“A bonus point win against Shimlas could go a long way towards securing us a home semifinal, with one match in hand, so we’ll be going all out to ensure that we’re firmly in control of our own destiny before that final league match against Pukke in Potch.”