Inside the Ikeys Varsity Cup 2019, with Head Coach Christiaan Esterhuizen

The Ikeys kicked off their 2019 Varsity Cup campaign with an important 32-24 win over newly promoted UWC, before suffering a 5-66 loss to the reigning champions, Maties. Following a bye this week, the Ikeys turn their sights to the UJ game on the Green Mile next week (25 Feb 2019), before preparing for a 4-week away run to Shimlas, NWU Pukke, WITS and Tuks thereafter.

Ahead of the next fixtures, we look at what rules have changed/remained from Varsity Cup 2018, before going behind the scenes with Ikey Head Coach Christiaan Esterhuizen.

Update: Rule Changes
Notably, there have been some changes from the 2018 rules. Varsity Cup no longer using the ‘Power Play’ rule and will implement World Rugby’s points system in all competitions, barring the Point of Origin rule.

That being said, the following rules applicable to Varsity Cup have been kept and will still be in effect:

The Free Catch Rule: Limits the amount of possession kicked away by attacking teams.

The Defending Nine: Creates more time and space for the attacking scrum-half to clear the ball at the base of a scrum and improve set play attack for backline players.

The Red Card Rule: Keeps the contest alive when an “unfair” or early red card is given. This rule states that the offending player will go off for 20 minutes.

Point of Origin (POR) Tries: When an attacking team starts their move from inside their own half, and score a try, they are awarded a POR try that gives them an extra two points. If the POR try is converted, the team will get nine points altogether.

White Card: Only used at the semi-finals and finals.

Behind the Scenes with Ikey Head Coach Christiaan Esterhuizen
Q – How is your squad looking and are many of last year’s 1st XV players are returning this year?

We managed to retain the core of our squad from last year. The squad is more experienced, and we are definitely a more settled squad compared to previous 2 seasons.

Q – How has your pre-season training progressed?

Pre-season went really well. Since we are more settled, we didn’t have to start from scratch, as we had a good base to work from in terms of our defence and attack systems. We placed a bigger emphasis in terms of our kicking game during pre-season, so it will be good to measure this during our pre-season friendlies.

Q – 2018 results were a big improvement on 2017 and 2016 results, with narrow defeats to Shimlas and UJ just costing the team a semi-final place. What lessons have you learnt from last year?

We learnt that the margins are very small in this competition, and that one small lapse in concentration can cost you the tournament. We learnt a lot in terms of game / scenario management, and how to be more accurate in our decision making under extreme pressure.

Q – What has been your main focus areas in preparing for this season?

As mentioned, kicking game. Our defence is something we are proud of (we had the best defence record in the competition in 2018) so we kept focusing on this. Another aspect of focus was our general attack, specifically in terms of decision making.

Q – Who has been involved in pre-season coaching and who will be a part of your coaching team for the Varsity Cup?

Craig Childs – Defence
Tank Lanning – Set piece
Zelim Nel – Kicking
Mike v Rheede – Skills and Physio
Dr Caro D’Alton – Team doc
Ross Williams – Technical
Raun Billett – Manager
Sean Lucas – S&C
Ruan Botha – Mental and performance
Christiaan Esterhuizen: Attack and breakdown

Q – Will the team continue to play the core style of play of 2018, or can we expect something different this year?

The attack and defence principles remained mainly the same, but hopefully we can surprise the fans and opposition with one or two new exciting things.

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