Ikeys v Maties in Super League decider

It’s Intervarsity time again, as the University of Cape Town and
archrivals Stellenbosch University go head-to-head in Coetzenberg this
weekend in a game that will decide the 2008 Super League title.

A victory for Stellenbosch over UCT – in a repeat of their drama-filled FNB Varsity Cup Final at the same venue earlier this year – will see the Maties crowned as the 2008 Super League champions. But should UCT triumph, it will hand the 2008 title to Hamilton’s, who were fortunate to beat the Ikeys less than two weeks ago.

Stellenbosch, themselves, managed a charmed 18-16 victory over Hamilton’s this past weekend, but they remain in contention for a staggering 12th consecutive Western Province Super League title.

That is, of course, if UCT do not ruin the script this coming weekend.

“Some might think that we have nothing riding on this match league-wise, but we are a proud and determined UCT team,” said Ikeys first team coach John Dobson, who led UCT to their last Intervarsity victory in Stellenbosch, back in 2004.

“That Hamilton’s match was probably our best league performance of the season, and we were desperately unlucky to lose, having led 18-17 with just over five minutes remaining. Plus, having our hearts broken in the last seconds of the Varsity Cup Final means this is our last chance of a trophy this season.”

Saturday’s match, which kicks-off at 5.15pm, will be the fourth meeting between UCT and Stellenbosch this season; the latter having triumphed twice, but the Ikeys winning the first clash of 2008, an FNB Varsity Cup league game in George.

Many pundits have commented on the resurgence of the Ikeys-Maties clashes at such a competitive level. Every game this year between these two teams has been a thriller, with UCT winning well in George in a fantastic spectacle, but Maties then triumphing in two last-minute wins.

Maties remain the ever-productive talent factory for Western Province, but UCT have upped their contribution with eight of their players being in the current WP Under-21 side. Of course, Saturday’s match will also see two of the country’s most promising young coaches in Dobson and Maties mentor Chean Roux going head-to-head again.

“It’s been a long season, and a tough past few days at the club following the death of (first team flank) Monte Taljaard,” said Dobson.

“But we’re determined to end 2008 with a victory to send the guys into the off-season on a high as we start planning for the 2009 Varsity Cup. If we want to be a true powerhouse in South African rugby, as a producer of talent and as an institution, we have to benchmark ourselves against a great club like Maties and would rather finish the season 2-2 against them and with an Intervarsity win.”

For Stellenbosch coach Chean Roux, Saturday is looming as an important day, with Maties looking to pick up their second title of 2008.

“We were bitterly disappointed at getting knocked out of the club champs by Pukke; last week was a tough one for us after that loss as we set about getting the guys up for the Hamilton’s match,” revealed Roux.

“But credit must go to my players… they got themselves up for the Hammies game and we’re on a real high now. There is plenty to play for in this match, with the league title up for grabs, and we wouldn’t want to mess it up with just one match remaining in the season.”

Roux – a former Western Province No.8, who played alongside UCT assistant coach Robbie Fleck – is anticipating a “great game” at the weekend, a hallmark of clashes between the Maties and Ikeys in years gone by.

“Maties-Ikeys games are always crackers – whether they’re high-scoring or low-scoring matches,” said Roux, who confesses to being something of a rugby romantic when it comes to these games.

“Intervarsities have a place in the modern game and we’re hoping for a big crowd with plenty of support for both teams. The students always make a big fuss for games like this and we’re expecting much of the same come this Saturday.”

Despite the pressure facing his team – they need to beat UCT to win the title, although a draw and four tries will also do the trick – Roux joked: “I spoke to Dobbo (John Dobson) after the Hammies game and I said to him, ‘I’ll take a draw and four tries any day come (next) Saturday!’. That will give us three points and the title and none of us have to lose!”

The blue-and-white clad UCT students are expected to head to Stellenbosch in their masses to support their university in both teams’ final league matches of the year.

Kick-off for the main game is at 5.15pm and tickets, which cost R20, will be sold at the gates at Coetzenberg.

Howard Kahn