Marcello Sampson, here dotting down against Pukke, is back in the side.
FNB UCT head coach John Dobson has made three changes to the Ikey Tigers’ starting XV for Monday’s Varsity Cup semifinal clash against FNB Pukke in Cape Town.
Dobson – whose charges went down 13-17 to the same Pukke side earlier this week – also made some adjustments to his bench, with four previously injured stars returning to the UCT matchday 22 for what should be an entertaining semifinal match-up.
Wingers Marcello Sampson and Dane Johnson will start in jerseys No.11 and No.14, respectively, with Sampson having missed the Pukke match in Potchefstroom with an injury niggle and Johnson resting a sore hamstring on the bench.
In the final change to the UCT starting line-up, Dobson has opted for Mark Goosen at hooker, with Dayne Jans dropping to the bench where he will join Marvin Christians (last week’s sole try-scorer) and the fit-again trio of flanker Mzoi Simani, scrumhalf JP Robert and bustling centre Sean van Tonder.
“It’s great to welcome back JP, Sean and Marcello, whom we rested last week because of little niggles,” Dobson told varsitycup.co.za
“Dane is over his hamstring strain, so he is back to start, and we are thrilled that at long last after battling many injuries, last year’s starting blindside Mzoi Simani is back in our squad.”
Looking back at this past Monday’s loss to Pukke, with next week’s semifinal clash in mind, Dobson revealed: “We did keep some of our powder dry last week – more than we would have liked, actually, as we were deservedly beaten by a good Pukke side.
“But like I said earlier this week, we did what we went there for. It was weird for us not to want to have the ball and kick like we did, but we had a plan and the chaps did well, after a very poor start, to stick to it.
“I was probably over-conservative in not asking them to open up a bit earlier, but in these laws fit teams can score two tries very quickly.
“I think psychologically it was good to lose as complacency would have been a threat had we won in Potch – a team as good as Pukke would punish us for any form of complacency,” added the UCT boss.
“We know we are in for a massive battle on Monday evening, but hopefully we can play more rugby (this time).
“We have made a few structural adjustments, that should help. They will come at us hard in the scrums, where we battled last week after Shane (Meier) got injured, but I am sure Paul (Day, scrum coach) has fixed it.”
Amazingly, UCT and Pukke will meet in the semifinals for the second successive year – as will Maties and Tukkies – but the Ikeys mentor did not believe last year’s thrilling fixture at Groote Schuur would have a significant bearing come Monday afternoon.
“Ideally we would like to still be in the Varsity Cup next Tuesday – but as everyone knows, there are no guarantees in knockout rugby,” admitted Dobson.
“When we set out this season our goal, after losing half of the team that played in last year’s final, was to get a home semi and then see what happens.
“In doing so, I think we’ve already proved that last year was not a flash in the pan, like some people said, and that UCT are indeed a real force in this great competition.”
FNB UCT: 15 Therlow Pietersen, 14 Dane Johnson, 13 Tiger Bax, 12 Pieter Engelbrecht, 11 Marcello Sampson, 10 Matt Rosslee, 9 Stuart Commins (vice-captain), 8 JJ Gagiano (captain), 7 Enoch Panya, 6 Nick Fenton-Wells, 5 Donovan Armand, 4 Michael Passaportis, 3 Shane Meier, 2 Mark Goosen, 1 Dylan Rogers.
Replacements: 16 Dayne Jans, 17 Ashley Wells, 18 Dane Galley, 19 Mzoi Simani, 20 JP Robert, 21 Sean van Tonder, 22 Marvin Christians.
Head coach: John Dobson
Assistant coach: Robbie Fleck
Kick-off: Monday, March 23, 4.45pm – Groote Schuur (Cape Town)