I have never been prouder of being an unabashed and devoted UCT rugby addict than I am this evening. Put that in your pipes and smoke it. In rugby terms it was a classic Bordeaux first growth in a great year, versus a rough, tough Australian Syrah; all muscle and not too much brain versus smooth silk and seduction. After four long years UCT have been crowned the kings of the Varsity Cup. Let us say up front that it was long overdue. The flair and finesse of a classic, subtle wine versus the brute force of witzblitz.
My proverbial cup runneth over. Earlier this evening twenty something young men put their bodies and characters on the line to win the 2011 Varsity Cup Competition for the first time in the four years of the competition. Against all the odds, playing the tough outfit called TUKS, coached by a damn good coach called Nols, backed by the overwhelming might of Heyneke Meyer, the real king of Blue Bulls rugby, and a plethora of ex Springboks and Bulls ‘ volk’; in Pretoria before a naturally partisan crowd, the Ikey Tigers overcame themselves, and claimed the title they should have won for the first time in 2008 in Stellenbosch. That is character and plain old guts. We are so proud of you.
It was a helluva game, and a huge amount of credit must go to TUKS, who threw the kitchen sink and most of Hatfield at the Tigers. I was reminded of some of the classic clashes I saw live in the USA many years ago watching NFL football, where the most incredible defence would go on for minutes on the edge of the in-goal area. I have never seen such determined, gutsy and resolute defence as the Ikey Tigers displayed this evening in the last ten or so minutes. It struck me forcibly that Tim Noakes and
his side- kicks must take huge credit for the incredible fitness the Tigers displayed in the last quarter of the game. Defending like that is equivalent to being in Afghanistan in a firefight and ‘outgutsing’ the tribal equivalent of the TUKS and the Blue Bulls. Wow!
Who were the stars? We all have our own takes on this aspect of the glorious game. I believe that the ‘Cool Greek’ deserves enormous praise because frankly by his high standards he had a very poor first half, but a superb second half; all cool and collected. That takes enormous bottle and class. Only the very best players come back better in the second forty minutes after screwing the pooch.
Another unsung hero was Nick the Fenton-Wells. As one knowledgeable rugby friend in the Eastern Cape said in a text message, at one stage in the game; ‘Pity, the ref is missing one great game.’ Somehow Nick kept his cool; I would have been tempted to slit the referee’s scrawny throat. Was he offered Miss TUKS and a game farm in Bela Bela?
Let’s face it, the referee was appalling. We get second rate referees in the Varsity Cup Competition and some top class referees in the worn out, two dogs and a girlfriend Vodacom provincial competition. If the top referees can officiate in lesser tournaments, why do we have put up with the inept clowns foisted on the Varsity Cup Competition for blatant political ‘schmoozing.’
Anyway, in closing, it was a tremendous final. I was fascinated to see that ‘Patria’ from Potch ‘donnered’ the mighty Simonsberg in the ‘koshuis’ final. Doc Craven would have had all the players, coaches and camp followers of Simonsberg shot at dawn against the backdrop of the Pappegaaiberg.
The old adage is that achievement at the highest level is generally a prelude to a dichotomy; do you go up or down, or do you stumble at the level where you have achieved your greatest triumph, or do you plan effectively, and move on to the next level; such as retaining the Varsity Cup where it belongs; at UCT.
The finest aspect of the Ikey Tigers 2011 campaign is that all of you, from Footey, Dave, Snoopy and Paul, to the magnificent squad of 2011 Ikey Tigers, when you are old men as this scribe is, nobody can ever take away from you the fact that you were there, you did it, you reached Mount Olympus. That often fashions who you are, and what you achieve for the rest of your life.
I salute you, and look forward to celebrating with all of you. A special tribute to Footey and Nick. You are the CHAMPIONS.