Defending Varsity Cup champions, FNB UCT, have once again headed off to Riebeek West as they kickstart their pre-season preparation in earnest ahead of the 2012 tournament.
The Ikeys, who finally broke their Varsity Cup duck last year after losing in two finals (in 2008 and 2010), have made the trip to Riebeek West on three previous occasions – making this their fourth outing.
They arrived in Riebeek West on Tuesday, with head coach Kevin Foote looking forward to kicking off their rugby-specific training in earnest.
“It’s always been an awesome trip for us,” enthused Foote, despite the sweltering conditions at the RPC.
“It’s great for the guys to spend some time together but the key now is for us to up the ante in terms of our rugby-specific training.
“[Defence coach] Dave Wessels is back after his stint at the Brumbies, so he will add value, and it’s all about preparing for our first pre-season match this weekend.”
UCT have, in the past, faced up to the Stormers and Western Province in Riebeek West, but this year – with the Stormers on camp in Hermanus – they will be up against Varsity Shield side, FNB UWC.
Foote told varsitycup.co.za: “UWC are a talented side and, as one of the better performing Shield sides last year, will have a lot to prove against us.
“A lot of John Dobson’s WP Under-21 players have joined UWC, so they have a talented team and we’re expecting a tough battle.”
The Ikeys and UWC will enjoy a braai after Saturday’s match – which kicks-off at 10.30am – and the defending champions have lined up another competitive pre-season friendly against the SA Under-20 team next Saturday (January 21).
Foote is also hoping to secure a third match against Victorians – Stellenbosch’s second team. Failing that, the Ikeys could have one final hit-out against their Blue Squad (their reserve squad) or the UCT Young Guns (Under-20) team.
“Starting places are wide open and I’m expecting big competition from everyone to nail down their starting spots ahead of the tournament.”
UCT will start their FNB Varsity Cup presented by Steinhoff International title defence against FNB Shimlas in Cape Town on February 6 (kick-off 5pm).
By Howard Kahn