As the FNB UCT Ikey Tigers get set for their record-equalling third Varsity Cup Final appearance in four years, head coach Kevin Foote has paid tribute to everyone involved in UCT’s campaign this season.
Having taken over from long-time UCT coach John Dobson in 2011, Foote has quickly stamped his mark on the Varsity Cup tournament – guiding his side to four wins in a row before they secured a final place with a 57-20 semifinal demolition of the FNB Shimlas last Monday.
As one would expect there has been plenty of praise thrown in Foote’s direction, but the former South African Sevens and UCT captain showed some nifty footwork – reminiscent of his playing days – when asked about his role as coach.
“I just cannot thank everyone (else) enough,” Foote told varsitycup.co.za.
“Every single person in the UCT Varsity Cup squad has sacrificed something to be a part of this journey. From the coaching staff, to the medical and fitness guys… to the guys that have played – to those that have not laced a boot in anger.
“Some players have been at every training session without even playing. You cannot ask for anything more and I cannot thank those guys enough. I’ve said all along that this 2011 Varsity Cup journey was a group effort and even though it’s not over, I just wanted to thank everyone (thus far).”
With his team having enjoyed a seven-day break after their crushing semifinal win at the Green Mile, courtesy of a first-ever bye week before the Varsity Cup Final (in order to accommodate the inaugural Varsity Shield Final), Foote admitted that the time off could not have come at a better time.
“It’s important for everyone to keep their feet on the ground – especially after our big semifinal win,” stressed UCT’s boss. “In that regard, I think the week off couldn’t have come at a better time.”
Foote mixed things up a bit last week in order to keep his guys fresh ahead of next week’s final. He revealed: “We played some touch early last week, a good way to flush out things after the semifinals, had a pizza night during the week and got back to some serious training on Saturday.
“We’ve got some other fun things planned before next Monday, but there’s no point suddenly making massive changes. It’s basically business as usual, with a few things to work on with our opponents (Tukkies) in mind.”
Of course, as Foote mentioned above it’s all about the UCT squad and he will be relying on some new faces next Monday – most notably at inside centre after Adrian Kritzinger suffered a broken collar bone in the semifinals.
“It was very disappointing losing Adrian early on. He hadn’t played for three weeks, yet he was absolutely clinical in those first 12 minutes and I cannot say how disappointed I am for him to be missing the final,” said Foote.
“But, like I said, it’s a team effort and I know the 23 that takes to the field on Monday will be out there to win it for Kritz.
“Take a guy like Pete Haw,” continued UCT’s boss. “He was on the bench for two weeks, but when I felt we needed more experience in a semifinal in he came and he was truly sensational. He came alive against the Shimlas and that’s the beauty of this squad.”
Foote will be speaking to the Western Province coaching staff this week to see which – if any – Vodacom Cup players will be available for selection next week, whilst he will also run the rule over his South African Under-20 players who are back from Argentina.
Then, on Sunday the 23-man matchday squad – and coaching staff – will make the trip to Pretoria in a bid to capture UCT’s first-ever Varsity Cup title in what will be the Ikeys’ third final in four years.
“We always knew we would be playing the final away from home this year – top-two finish or not,” said Foote when asked about the fact that they would be playing the final away from home – despite ending ahead of Tuks on the log.
“I know our fans are disappointed that the game won’t be in Cape Town, and it’s nice to know how much they care, but we’ve traveled well all year and all that we care about is delivering a top 80-minute performance to come away with the trophy; no matter where we’re playing.”
By Howard Kahn