Given his team’s unbeaten run, and first place on the 2011 Varsity Cup log at present, new Ikey Tigers coach Kevin Foote must be doing something right in Cape Town. The man himself, however, prefers to heap all the praise on the UCT players.
After beating the Shimlas (26-10) and Pukke (36-8) away from home, Foote’s charges made a triumphant home ‘debut’ against NMMU on Monday night – the Ikeys winning their annual Monte Taljaard Trophy Match by 49-12.
And, when asked about his team’s 14 points (out of a possible 15) on the log at present, Foote told varsitycup.co.za: “I’m exceptionally happy with our start… It’s not the results that have pleased me, but rather the team’s style of play.”
Picking up wins in Bloemfontein and Potchefstroom – two Varsity Cup fortresses – have made it a perfect start for UCT, but Foote added: “The great thing about the team is that they just want to get better.
“Obviously it’s easy to judge a team on their performances – and I guess, in that case, three from three says a lot – but the guys are as focused as ever at training and determined to make this the season.
“In that regard, I cannot speak more highly of Nick Fenton-Wells’s leadership – with Adrian Kritzinger backing him up as vice-captain. Nick and Kritz set high standards and the guys have been more than happy to follow them!”
But despite UCT’s impressive start to the 2011 Varsity Cup – their best in the history of this tournament – Foote, and the Ikeys players, have refused to get carried away.
“I don’t want to take anything away from our opponents thus far – or our results – but we’ve beaten teams in the bottom half of the table.
“After (next) Monday’s TUT game we’ve got the Maties and UJ at home and then Tuks away – those are shaping up as tough matches,” warned the former SA Sevens captain.
“Our goal all season has been pretty simple; we want to win every match we play. It doesn’t matter that we’ve made a good start… We now need to build on these first three performances and take it all the way.”
Injuries have been kind to UCT this year (“Touch wood” – according to Foote), but they will soon have to contend with provincial and national call-ups; with the scrumhalf Nic Groom and centre Marcel Brache (WP Vodacom Cup) and lock Eben Etzebeth, flanker Nizaam Carr and scrumhalf Ricky Schroeder (SA Under-20) set to miss various stages of Varsity Cup action over the next few weeks.
“It’s a new challenge for us as a squad, but I have a big and motivated squad and I’m full of confidence in the next tier of players who have been champing at the bit to get their opportunities,” said Foote.
“Yes, there will be new faces in the next few weeks due to call-ups,” he added, “but I have total faith in my entire squad.”
In an interview last week with UCT captain Nick Fenton-Wells, the Ikeys flanker was quick to praise the team’s conditioning (and match-fitness) – given their top performances away from home.
Foote, too, had nothing but kind words for Ikeys conditioning coach Tiaan Campher.
He said: “The guys are managing well and Tiaan must get credit for that. I’ve been very happy with the conditioning – especially given the quick type of game we like to play at UCT.
“But, again,” added Foote, “I have to praise the players here.
“I tried to call (scrumhalf) Ricky Schroeder the other night and he didn’t answer. Eventually he called me back; he’d been out running because he wanted to make sure – having missed some of our strongman exercises at the start of the year – that he was putting in some extra work. He was worried he might be falling behind or not giving his best.
“I cannot ask more than that… The players have put their hands up and, ultimately, that’s why they’re getting a few results along the way.”
* UCT’s next Varsity Cup clash, against the TUT Vikings, will take place on the Green Mile on Monday, February 28 (KO 5pm).
The match will televised live on SuperSport One.