After winning the inaugural tournament in 2015, hosted by the University of Oxford in England, then defending their title in 2019 at the University of Waseda in Japan, the Ikey Tigers now find themselves in the 2023 WURIT final, hosted by the University of Bordeaux.
The World University Rugby Invitational Tournament (WURIT) is a bit of a mouthful, and also something that has tended to slide beneath the radar, despite this being the third edition. It’s an international rugby tournament organised every four years in the country hosting the Rugby World Cup, that looks to bring together teams from the world’s top universities.
The 2023 Ikeys squad, coached by Rob Fleck, and skippered by Luthando Woji, arrived in Bordeaux late on Monday the 18th of September, and were set the task of taking on both the Combined New Zealand Universities and University of British Columbia sides on Thursday the 21st.
The unique tournament format sees teams playing normal 15 a side rugby in games consisting of two, 20-minute halves, with sides then playing two games a day on the first two match days of the tournament. Rolling subs are allowed throughout the games.
All players at the tournament have to be full time students, as per the Varsity Cup rules, which suits UCT nicely. Some of the attending universities sport mostly open sides in their leagues, though, hence them needing to put together combined university sides made up of just students.
The Ikey Tigers edged out the Kiwis by three points in game one – perhaps a nice wake up – and then comfortable beat the Canadians later in the day. On Day 2 of the tournament, the Ikeys suffered their first ever WURIT loss at the hands of hosts, Bordeaux, before bouncing back to hammer the combined team from the USA.
Having already secured a spot in the semi-finals, the men in blue and white seemed to take their foot off the gas in another reverse on Day 3, this time in their final pool game against the Sydney-siders, who ironically, still missed out on the semis.
It was back to business for the Ikeys in their semi-final against the Kiwis, although it took a yeoman defensive effort in the last few minutes to keep the men in black out. UCT held on to win 19-14 with tries from open side Sipho Dyonase, and fullback Ntokozo Makhaza (2), who went on to convert both his tries.
The Ikeys now take on hosts Bordeaux in the final on Thursday at 17h00, and will be looking to make good on the reverse suffered in the pool games.
The match will be live streamed on the tournament YouTube channel – https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLJ3KTvfhAtWbyk7SpdKWIbgH4XY2qxj3U
Ikey results thus far:
DAY 1 – 21 September
Ikeys 16-13 New Zealand (Tries: Makhaza, Fredericks. Pen: Makhaza (2))
Ikeys 24-7 British Columbia (Tries: Davis (2), Ndudula, Kruger. Con: Makhaza, Vermeulen)
DAY 2 – 23 September
Ikeys 13-16 Bordeaux (Tries: Vermeulen, Nel. Pen: Vermeulen)
Ikeys 43-7 USA All Stars (Tries: Roy, Hayes, M Macleod-Smith, Nel, Davis (2), Vermeulen. Con: Vermeulen (4))
DAY 3 – 25 September
Ikeys 5-10 Sydney (Try: Castle)
Semi-final – 26 September
Ikeys 19-14 New Zealand (Tries: Dyonase, Makhaza (2). Con: Makhaza (2))
Final – 28 September
Ikeys vs Bordeaux (17h00)
Ikeys 2024 squad:
Backs: Alex Vermeulen, Chris Roy, David Hayes, Hlumelo Ndudula, Josh Boulle, Kyle Lamb, Lezane Davis, Luca de Leo, Lyle Hendricks, Ntokozo Makhaza, Rethabile Louw, Rihaz Fredericks, Tom Nel
Forwards: Adam de Waal, Alex Castle, Bryan le Roux, Luthando Woji, Jovan Bekker, Jac van der Walt, Johan van Rhyn, JL de Lange, Jason Macleod-Smith, Mika Schubert, Matthew Macleod-Smith, Matthew Beckett, Mhleli Khuzwayo, Reynhardt Crous, Sipho Dyonase, Taariq Kruger, Troy fisher
Management: Rob Fleck, Mike van Rheede, Piet Cilliers, Raun Billett