Ikeys Young Guns firing again in 2019

In 2018 the Ikey Tigers under 20 side had a successful Varsity Cup campaign and then went on to win the WP Super A League, remaining undefeated and which also included winning the Hedley Atkins Trophy.

The class of 2019 is continuing on from these successes. In 2019 the Varsity Cup organisers changed the format of the Young Guns competition, making them play a full round of fixtures identical to the first side.

The Young Gun’s enjoyed an excellent 2019 campaign, winning six of their eight pool games, which included a win away against Tuks by 31-29. The team played the traditional UCT brand of running rugby throughout the season and in four of the games scored more than 50 points. Ikeys finished third on the final log and faced Pukke away in the semi-final, losing 38 – 20 taking bronze.

The Young Gun’s currently have a strong core of U19 players who will play as second years in next year’s YG competition.

The team was captained by Ant Fleischer. Captain Fleischer is adamant that instead of individual standout performances, it was a team culture that carried the FNB UCT Young Guns over the line on more than one occasion. FNB Varsity Cup hosts many provincial players and Fleischer believes that his troop of senior players “helped us topple bigger teams purely through an amazing culture”. He is also grateful for last year’s successful league campaign which created a sturdy platform for this year’s second years.

The U20’s or the Cubs as they are affectionately known picked up where they left off last season and are currently unbeaten and top of the league, albeit having played a few more fixtures than some of the other main contenders.

We did a Q&A with Wes Chetty, the Young Guns VC head coach to get some insight into the team and coaches.

This is a very talented under 20 group who made the semi-final of the Varsity Cup Young Guns competition, recently shared the Hedley Atkins trophy and are currently unbeaten in the league. How would you describe what this team has achieved this season so far?  

They are a great bunch of guys, I speak on behalf of the whole management group when I say that they are an absolute pleasure to coach. When you get the culture right and team environment right, the rugby is the easy part. They can be very proud of what they achieved so far this year, we fell short in the VC and not to make excuses our squad was pushed to the limit with the new format but showed massive grit and character to push Pukke all the way in that Semi, of course, we wanted more but hopefully 2020 will be that “more”. The league side has started brilliantly and under the guidance of Josh Carew, we are blooding more and more talent and strengthening the club. Our success has the main focus of making the club better and we can be chuffed with that so far when you consider that William Rose, Kyle Lamb, Tawanda Muthuma, David Hayes, Ross Goodwin to name a few have already all been capped for the 1sts. There will be more I can guarantee that.

What do you consider to be the team’s greatest strength, and where is there room for improvement?

Their strength is no doubt in their unity and love for each other, they all talented rugby players, but their willingness to be a close unit is massive. You look at when our prop Seth Christians had an amateur boxing match out in Milnerton our whole squad was there cheering him on a Saturday night. Dressed in their u20 bow ties, you ask why would they need to do that and the answer is because they care. There are obvious improvements we need to make on the field, tiding up the detail, conditioning, these are non-negotiables we have to get right if we want to win the Young guns competition next year.

What goals have you set for the league season?

Josh Carew who is taking the lead for the league season while I refuse to let go and “attempt” to play still, will no doubt want to win the league. They were champions last year and in their minds must do it again. As I mentioned earlier, they are already unearthing new talent weekly which is great for the club.

Who else has been involved with the coaching, management and support of the team this year?

We have had a fantastic coaching staff this year which has been big but great, I have had Josh and Mike assist me this year. Then we had Steve Mac doing conditioning, Doc Huber and my wife Megan and Martin running the medical side of things, Stef who has joined the league side as well. James Kilroe has done a great job as Director of the u20 setup. Last but not least we had an amazing manager in Jono Fields who took care of everything for us, we couldn’t have been blessed more with him as a manager.

This is the first year the Young Guns played a full round of fixtures. Having played Varsity Cup rugby, do you think this has given you a practical understanding of what is required for the players to succeed?

Definitely, this year was unknown for us, I have had experience in the senior VC as a player but this is a different kettle of fish. You have limited time to prepare and we go up against sides with massive budgets, whereas we have just about enough for coke and packet of chips.  We have definitely identified areas where we have to improve as well as areas that we can really focus on going forward.

For those who have been lucky enough to watch some of the teams’ games, there has been some classic running rugby and tries scored. Did you set out to play a particular brand of rugby at the start of the season?

It’s in the DNA of the players, if they had their own way they would run it from everywhere. We want to thrill crowds and have people on the edge of their seats as that’s what UCT rugby is all about, however you have to have a balance, you have to have a great kicking game with the wind at UCT and you have to take into account altitude and all other factors. I want us scoring 100m tries but I also want us to win so striking the balance is the key, but jeepers there is nothing better than the ball going through 8 sets of hands before Rob Macdonald puts it under the sticks.

What does this season’s success mean for the Club going into 2020?   

It means we are in a good place, the youth will be there to step up into senior ranks and the young guns will continue to thrill and strive to win the VC. Much more you can’t ask for.

Success can have both a positive and negative influence on a team. How do you maintain perspective and keep the squad humble?  

Humility again another factor which this team does well, it will always be there, I will push for us to respect opponents, seniors and the history of the club. The bottom line is your only as good as your last game and the last time I checked we don’t have the trophy, so there is a lot to be done before we can celebrate. However, we will walk with a swagger in our step, we will celebrate tries and we will sing and appreciate the efforts we put in, nothing wrong with being confident.

Success off the field is equally important as it is on the field for Ikey men. How would you describe the team persona off the field? Does this contrast to their attitude on the field?

They are the typical Ikey swagmen, they are academics, they love a beer and they love each other. They get the balance right between hard work on and off the field and this isn’t a job or bursary to them, this means more. For me, they are the future of the club and we must look after them.