With his studies out of the way this season, experienced FNB UCT flyhalf Matt Rosslee is happy to be putting all his energy into the Ikeys’ 2010 FNB Varsity Cup campaign.
Rosslee completed his Finance Honours last year and insists that he is loving the Varsity Cup “more than ever”, as one of the old(er) hands in the UCT line-up.
“I’m fortunate that I’ve completed my studies, whereas in 2008 and 2009 I was playing in the Varsity Cup, training and running off to lectures in between all of that,” say the level-headed 23-year-old.
“Now, however, I’m able to put everything into my game and also put in more time with our coaching specialists like Sherylle Calder [eye coach] and Gareth Wright [kicking coach] and I’d like to think it’s paying off for me.”
Well, with 44 points to show from his team’s four matches thus far, Rosslee’s hard work seems to have paid off already.
“To be honest I was actually a bit worried about my kicking form earlier in the season,” admits the former Rondebosch Boys’ High School pupil.
“I guess I could use the wind in Cape Town and PE as an excuse, but I set high standards for myself and I am constantly looking to better myself each time I step onto the field.”
As a long-time member of this John Dobson-coached UCT team, Rosslee forms part of the Ikeys’ core group of experienced players – all of whom are appearing in an astonishing third successive Varsity Cup tournament.
Joining the likes of Mark Goosen, Ash Wells, Don Armand, JJ Gagiano, Stu Commins and Marcello Sampson – to name just a few – as third-year Varsity Cup ‘students’, Rosslee is more than happy to play a mentoring role in the squad.
However, he is quick to add that the more experienced players can also learn from the younger guys, saying: “It’s nice being a senior guy in the squad – it’s enjoyable being able to help out with the new guys.
“But it’s not purely about us teaching the youngsters… trust me, we’re learning from them too and they certainly keep us on our toes! A guy like Marcel Brache brings plenty of energy to the team – at training and during matches and it’s something that we, in turn, can learn from them.
“Guys like myself, JJ [Gagiano] and Stu [Commins] – we’re not exactly old,” he adds, “but what we can do is bring a bit of calmness to the side with all that young and new energy in the camp.”
Having taken the 2008 Varsity Cup by storm, scoring a bucketload of tries en route to topping the log and qualifying for the final, comparisons are – sometimes – still being made between subsequent UCT squads; both last season and, now, in 2010.
Rather than argue with any possible comparisons, Rosslee offers an explanation: “The big guy that we lost after 2008 was [England Sevens player] Mat Turner, he was our ‘striker’, or game-breaker as some like to say.
“But I think we still have the attacking capabilities in this squad – look at players like Marcello Sampson, Marcel Brache and Therlow Pietersen; they can cause havoc and are deadly when given the space – that’s what it’s about, giving them the space.”
Oddly, the Ikeys have scored just one four-try bonus point this season – but, believes Rosslee, that is more a product of the treacherous weather conditions than a lack of ability.
He points out: “When you play against the wind you have to keep the ball close to your forwards, so you can’t go wide, and then when you’re playing with the wind at your back, you need to kick to the corners – that’s why you haven’t seen a lot of our outside backs this season.
“We’re actually very excited about playing on the Highveld [against UJ] – as those conditions should suit us and it will hopefully give us an opportunity to use the width of the field.”
Looking ahead to Monday’s clash against UJ, who boast a dangerous back three, Rosslee reveals: “I know all about Earl Lewis, having played with him in the SA Universities side last year – he’s particularly lethal and we need to keep our eyes on him throughout.
“But it’s not just him we have to worry about; Lola Waka has scored some tries against us (when he was playing for the Pukke) and (winger) Bernado Botha is also a guy we need to keep in check.”
Despite the talk of UJ’s dangermen, Rosslee could just be UCT’s key man come Mondaya; his deadly boot will punish any UJ indiscretions, whilst his accurate passing game will bring his outside backs into play – if the need arises and, of course, the conditions allow.
* Monday’s UJ v UCT Varsity Cup clash – at the UJ Stadium in Johannesburg – kicks-off at 6.30pm and will be televised live on SuperSport One.
By Howard Kahn