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)

Small Town Boy, Big City Dreams! Meet Taariq Kruger

Kruger hails from Kimberley; after matriculating from Durban High School, he moved down to the cape to be an Ikey Tiger! It was a tough decision between Maties and UCT but Jono Field’s influence managed to convince him to join the club. We are glad you are here!

1. How old were you when you started playing rugby?


I was 13 years old when I started playing rugby. I played hockey, cricket and soccer. One day in primary school the rugby coach came up to me and said “you’re quite big for your age” and the next week I joined the rugby team!

2. What was your first rugby memory?

My first rugby memory would be the first time I went to rugby training. My parents fetched me and I said, “I need some sugar in my body”. We stopped at the OK on the way home and I got a bar-one and my parents said “listen, you need to make a decision.” And from then on, I decided that rugby would be my sport!

3. Who is your role model and why?

I don’t think I have a role model, I like to set my own standards. At the end of the day, you set yourself out to be like them but then you fail. So, I rather like to set personal goals and then achieve them.

4. Can you remember your first training session at UCT?

It was the Hermanus Camp, it was quite tough, nothing like school boy rugby. They throw you in the deep end! I had to adapt to this lifestyle; very quickly.  

5. What do you eat before a big match?

It depends where we are playing, if we play at the Green Mile, I have an egg and mayo sandwich, three samoosas and the muffins the club provide. It’s cheap and quality, you know. I’m getting my carbs, protein and even my veggies.

6. Describe your perfect weekend.

My perfect weekend is the Sunday after a tough match on Saturday. My body is usually extremely sore on the Sunday, so I can just sleep and relax the whole day. I also don’t have to do anything around the house because I have a good excuse. It’s weird, I really like the pain, it almost like the fruits of my labour.

7. What’s a typical day of a Varsity Cup rugby player (during season)?

I wake up at 8am, have breakfast and then straight to campus for lectures. I then go back to Res (Kapano) for lunch and to work. At about 4:30pm I start making my way to the Green Mile to warm up and train.

8. What motivates you to achieve your goals?

The fact that I know that I can do something, without being a financial burden to my parents. If I succeed, I have the chance to get a scholarship. I am very independent and I want to take the stress and pressure off of them as well.

9. What’s the next goal in your rugby career?

Short term: Training to make WP U19 team next year.
Long term: I plan on making it, and playing up to the age of 26 so I can enjoy the rest of my life; without too many injuries!

10. What are your hobbies aside from rugby?

Having alone time and chilling by myself or going to the gym. I recently went through a transition with regards to my religion. I never used to take my religion seriously, but now I enjoy praying and actually see it as a hobby; praying five times a day and abiding by the rules of Islam.

What’s happening in KZN? – Q&A with Liam Furniss

  1. Remind me what you studying – how’s it going – how has the move to online changed your work ethic?
    I am studying my honours in English Literature; and enjoying it. The move to online hasn’t really been too much of a problem; it is a lot of self-reading and it’s just a matter of doing it. We do one Zoom session a week; so it isn’t too bad and of all the degrees; mine is kind of easy to do online.
  2. How are you keeping rugby alive in your life during this “forced downtime” ?
    It’s been weird, especially because this is my last year and then my UCT career is over – it is pretty strange after 5 years. I don’t have any regrets, it has been nice to be away for a little bit, but I am definitely missing it a lot. But getting the motivation to train definitely isn’t as easy as it would be with the guys around.
  3. What advice would you give a young guy entering the club in 2021?
    The rugby club is the type of environment where you can really do so much more than just play rugby, you can really get so involved. I’d say, speak to the older guys, speak to Alum; there is so much to be gained from these guys. At the same time, if you don’t get involved, you can easily just leave with a couple of years of good rugby. I would say get involved in everything you can; on and off the field. UCT is so special, in that off the field; it is so much more than just rugby; there is so much to be learnt about yourself. From an academic point of view, I think a large part of the process is figuring the whole academic side of things for yourself.  You need to find something that you love. Don’t be afraid to change it up as you go along, and I think it is important to know that.
  4. How do you think you have evolved from a school boy rugby player to an Ikey Tiger – what do you think the main differences are?
    The set-up is a semi-professional environment, you train hard at school but when you enter UCT, you start playing real rugby and it is intense. It is a serious level up from the school set; from both a professional point of view and the rugby club in general. We really do have the best coaches in SA and I think it is important to be able to acknowledge and respect that. At school, a lot of the guys are playing with something further in mind, it often takes away from the actual game but at varsity it is professional in and of itself. Just to be able to play in these structures that the coaches set up for you, it is something else.
  5. How do you rate the strength of the Ikey Tigers 1st team rugby team?
    I think this has been one the best sides we have had, I have been involved for 5 years now, between this side and the 2018 side, it is close one. This year in terms of cohesion; I haven’t played in a side like this; the vibe from the first day of pre-season was phenomenal, everyone had the same mindset. There was no doubt in anyone’s mind that we were a serious challenge to the tournament. In terms of the strengths of players, it is the best side and team environment that I have been involved in at my time at UCT.
  6. How do you think the change of the head coach made an impact in the team?
    Yes, I think that is difficult one, you can’t take away from the hard work that Essie put in. Say what you want, I always had a good relationship with Essie, I think he is a very good rugby coach. But at the same time I think him and Tom have very different approaches to the game and working together they get the most out of the rugby club. I think Tom was able to tap into Essie’s existing structures and harvest the best we had.
  7. What do you think makes the Ikey Tigers unique?
    I think what makes UCT unique is understanding that it is an incredibly professional environment but at the same time not everyone is trying to play professional rugby. This is different at other universities, at UCT you have the serious professionalism but you also have the guys who don’t want to take their rugby further; however are willing to give everything to the game. It makes a difference; I don’t think something like this exists anywhere else.
  8. Three dream dinner guests – who would you invite and why?
    1. Desmond Tutu: I just love Tutu, I think he has an incredible sense of humour and he has done so much for this country and the world. I just think he is really cool.
    2. Peter Anderson: Without a doubt the most intelligent man I have ever met in my life.
    3. Grandpa Furniss: Second most intelligent man I have ever met in my life.

Q&A with Ruben Labuschagne – Catch Up with a Cub

  1. Remind me what you studying – how’s it going – how has the move to online changed your work ethic?

    I am studying a BSci in Property Studies. So far it has been good, and I have passed all my subjects. Initially, the transition from in-person university to online learning was quite good; but then I started to get a bit over it and slacked a bit. But it all sorted itself out and exams went well.
  2. How are you keeping rugby alive in your life during this “forced downtime” ?
    I bought a training programme with Steve Mac (conditioning coach) and I am training quite well. I also bought some equipment and I have been training quite lekker. I am part of a touchies team and I have been watching some Super Rugby, so from a rugby point of view, it is actually going quite well.
  3. What advice would you give a young guy entering the club in 2021?
    First of all, I would advise him to come in with an open mind, to come and learn; not only as a rugby player but as a person in general. There is a huge diversity of people in the club and you can learn so much from different people.
  4. How do you think you have evolved from a school boy rugby player to an Ikey Tiger?
    I was in Stellenbosch (Paul Roos) for 5 years so I wanted something different, and I just wanted to get out of my comfort zone. To be honest, I think in this year’s short season, the coaches gave us a lot of a freedom to play; whereas in matric we were told exactly what to do. The relationships fostered between the coaches and players in the UCT set up is completely unique. These relationships have given me confidence both on and off the field.
  5. Although you only had a short stint at the club before Covid-19 restrictions – what are some of the things you can pinpoint that are unique?
    Definitely the vibe at the club, I have never felt something like this before. Just the love everyone has for each other makes the club unique in itself. When we were in Bloem [on tour], when we were singing afterwards, it is really amazing and unifying experience. I honestly don’t think that I could get this feeling anywhere else.
  6. Three dream dinner guests – who would you invite and why?
    Siya Kolisi – because he inspires me, especially where he comes from; just to speak to him and just get his perspective on where he comes from to where he is now.
    Warren Buffet: I am interested in the business side of things, and I would be interested to hear his advice.
    Angus Buchan: My religion is the most important thing in my life, and he is a mentor and he someone I look up to. I think I would just to have a chat about life and everything else.