The mutterings of an old relic from UCT’s rugby past
The Varsity Cup game at the Green Mile on Monday, 6th February, between the Ikey Tigers and the Shimlas, evoked a number of emotions and deserves a few observations from the platform of impending senility not yet able to quench an undiminished passion and love for UCT rugby.
- An amazing number of hyper critical comments floated around the VIP area where I was seated. The old adage came to mind: ‘Victory has many fathers, defeat is an orphan.’ Suddenly we were terrible. As usual, somewhere in between the two extremes lies a more balanced and objective summation of the thumping we received at the hands of the Shimlas
- No team can lose about half of its stars and produce the same brand of rugby and the results that a special team achieves in a golden period. Whether it is the Ikey Tigers, or the Blue Bulls, or the Crusaders, the magnificent ride is transitory. Players leave; players move upward in the professional milieu; the opposition sharpen the hatchets endlessly to bring the champions down
- UCT will always be more vulnerable to the hangover of the morning after the glorious celebration of victory. We play a special brand of rugby. It is based on flair, high risk, the sheer unbridled, sensuous pleasure of playing rugby for the sheer fun and adventure of the greatest oblong ball game of all time. High risk rugby means that when it does not click on a particular day, the solid, almost Teutonic preparation and execution of the Maties, TUKS, and the Shimlas, will mean that UCT will have those nightmare days.
- So what? The approach to the Varsity Cup from the Ikey Tigers might need a bit of fine tuning; a degree of a little more flexibility in tactics and a reward for our superb coaching staff for all their input in recent years. The Ikey Tigers will still produce some absolute magic this year no matter what happens.
- Watching the game on TV twice a day or so after the live game, I realized that there were so many positives to be built on that the immediate feeling of loss and sadness for the players, soon disappeared.
- From my platform the positives were the emergence of a young flyhalf, Nick Holton, who has the capability to go all the way to the top. Mark Winter on the one wing looked very promising. Ntsolo soldiered on like a Zulu warrior of old. Wesley Chetty showed what experience and heart can do. He was terrific. James Kilroe and James Tatham showed that they are real contenders right now. Graham Knoop must either play at lock or be tried at 8th man. Our lineouts were pathetic, and the lack of fire and mongrel at lock was patently obvious. Levi Odendaal did well as one would expect from an old campaigner, but he lacked support from his lock partner in the early, crucial stages of the tight exchanges in the lineouts, the breakdown and the tough underworld of the tight loose. No team in this contest is going to do well if they cannot compete at the lineouts and match the locks of the top teams with fire and mongrel.
- Watching the TUKS vs UJ game emphasised that TUKS have outstanding locks as have the Maties. We still have a very good front row, including the reserves, and good loose forwards once we establish the right combination and balance.
- Our midfield was porous, and ironically our potent weapon in last year’s final, our defence, was poor overall. There is time for our superb defensive coach, Dave Wessels, to inculcate in our mainly young and inexperienced squad, the same mindset the great team of 2011, made a science out of in crucial games.
- The monkey is off our backs. We are beatable, as are any of the teams in the competition. We still have the best coaching unit in the Varsity Cup, a base of really good, experienced ‘old men’, approaching 25 years of age, some absolutely stunning emerging talent, and the most precious thing of all in UCT rugby; the ability to get up off the deck and shatter the illusions of the oh so serious Maties, TUKS, UJ and Shimlas by producing our unique, scintillating brand of rugby, with a little bit of fine tuning from Footey and the men in pink shirts. We believe in you and the players. Go Tigers!