Last night, the Ikey Tigers booked their spot in the Varsity Cup final with a commanding 20-8 victory over Maties on a wet and windy Green Mile.
Come April 7, they will take on NWU-Pukke in Potchefstroom, in the penultimate encounter.
Speaking about the impact the weather had on the match, by far the worst we’ve seen this season, UCT coach Kevin Musikanth said: “The Green Mile dished out its best! Ultimately the game of rugby was reduced to a battle of will and who wanted it the most. Maties were very good with regard to defence but ultimately the damn wall had to break and fortunately we were on the positive side of the score board.”
It was a tough start to the game for both sides, as the teams battled to adapt to the slippery conditions. Maties pushed UCT way back into their own half from the outset, but the Ikeys defence held out. The first scrum of the match set the overall tone of the match, with the Ikey’s forward pack forcing the visitors backwards.
The home team were dealt their first blow of the match, when winger Richard Stewart was shown a yellow card for repeated infringements. Not to be hastened, however, they maintained the intensity, and continued to fight for the line. Given that Maties were one-up, the momentum shifted with the visitors making their way downfield, hungry for a score. They continued to hammer away at the home team, but were unable to find a way through the Ikey’s solid line of defence. Come half time, they game remained in a deadlock at 0-0.
With a scoreless first half, there was much to be said by the coaches at half time. “We knew that we had defended for our lives, fronted up and managed to keep Maties scoreless, but we also knew that there was an inconsistent breeze at our back for the second half,” said Musikanth.
Putting their faith in the flyhalf, the coach continued “Dean Gran was confident that he would put us into their territory, and once our scrum got firing we knew that we were in it with a shout. The determination and guts remained the same and the guys were ready for the half of their lives.”
The chance to regroup immediately paid off with Lihlei Xoli following up on a chip-forward to score the opening try of the match. Grant’s conversion in the tricky conditions put UCT 8-0. As promised, Grant was consistent with his kicks, adding two penalties and bringing the score up to 12-0. With the momentum now with them, a massive shove saw Ikey’s eighthman Michal Botha power over for a pushover try. Once converted, the home side were 20-0 up, and looking confident.
In the closing stages of the game, UCT slipped up once again with captain Liam Slatem sent to the sin bin for a dangerous tackle. This time, Maties took advantage of the mistake and scrum half Jean Nel scored in the corner, a try which was converted by flyhalf Robert du Preez. However, it was too little too late as the Ikeys eventually won the game 20-8.
After the game, UCT’s entire Varsity Cup squad and coaching staff got together to recite their anthem in the changing room, in a memorable moment for the side. Bound together by pride and determination, Musikanth explained “as much as winning the game was incredible and the fact that we have made it through to the final, it is those types of moments that make it most special.”
Speaking about what aspects of the game he believes his team most dominated, Musikanth said “UCT flourished at scrum time and the warrior-like defence made us all proud.”
The coaches parting comments reveal just how hard the team have worked to get to this point, and the ultimate pride he has in the boys:
“The club, coaching/management staff and most importantly players have bought into our Varsity Cup dream of 2014. We have felt the UCT wave of support and are very excited to be competing in our first final since 2011. The calibre of people involved in this campaign is the stand-out feature and it is fitting that we are able to be there at the end and once again give 100% of ourselves for the cause.”
By Megan Kinnaird
For FNB UCT:
Tries: Xoli, Botha
Cons: Grant 2
Pens: Grant 2
For FNB Maties:
Con: Du Preez
Yellow cards: Richard Stewart (UCT, 29 mins – repeated infringements) Liam Slatem (UCT, 71 mins – dangerous tackle)
FNB UCT: 15 Ross Jones-Davies, 14 Richard Stewart, 13 Huw Jones, 12 Guy Schwikkard, 11 Lihleli Xoli, 10 Dean Grant, 9 Liam Slatem (captain), 8 Michael Botha, 7 Vince Jobo, 6 Jason Klaasen, 5 James Kilroe, 4 Shaun McDonald, 3 Digby Webb, 2 Neil Rautenbach, 1 Joel Carew.
Replacements: 16 Chad Solomon, 17 Robin Murray, 18 Kyle Kriel, 19 Gareth Ehret, 20 James Alexander, 21 Martin Sauls, 22 Nathan Nel, 23 David Maasch.
FNB Maties: 15 Craig Barry, 14 Mark Hodgskiss, 13 Jacobus Loubser, 12 Louis Jordaan, 11 John Durr, 10 Robert du Preez, 9 Jean Nel, 8 Tertius Daniller (captain), 7 Helmut Lehmann, 6 Justin Benn, 5 Wilhelm van der Sluys, 4 Jan de Klerk, 3 Liam Hendricks, 2 Charl de Villiers, 1 Wesley Adonis.
Replacements: 16 Neethling Gericke, 17 Niel Oelofse, 18 Ian Groenewald, 19 Lungelo Chonco, 20 Bjorn Bernardo, 21 Chris Smith, 22 Tebongo Letlape, 23 Nicol Heyns.