UCT openside flanker Mike Morris has recovered from injury to take his place in the Ikey Tigers starting line-up for Monday’s mouth-watering top-of-the-log Varsity Cup clash against the Maties in Stellenbosch (8.30pm).
The hard-working No.7 picked up a rib injury during UCT’s opening-day draw against the FNB Shimlas at the start of February, but head coach John Dobson has wasted no time in rushing Morris straight back into action.
The more experienced Morris replaces debutant Zandy Macdonald – who acquitted himself well against UJ last week – on the openside and he will form a new-look loose trio with regular No.8 JJ Gagiano and Sam Peter on the blindside.
In explaining the make-up of the UCT loose trio, Dobson told varsitycup.co.za: “Ja, it’s tough on André [Goosen] and Zandy, both of whom did well against UJ, but Mikey Morris is our top opensider – a fearless, yet skilled dog of an openside.
“Sam, of whose talent we are well aware, is a player with a massive future and seized his chance against UJ with both hands – especially physically, making ten tackles in 28 minutes. But it’s his ball-in-hand attributes that particularly excite us and we’re looking forward to seeing him go (out there).”
In other changes to the UCT team – all of which are up front – Dobson has also recalled Mike Ledwidge in the second row, with Levi Odendaal moving down to the bench, whilst hooker Mark Goosen (who took a bang to the face against TUT) is back on the bench and Greg Mallett will provide the loose forward cover.
The UCT-Maties Varsity Cup clashes have produced some classics over the years, with not a lot separating the teams in the final analysis – despite Maties holding a 2-1 advantage in their three encounters thus far.
Overall, however, things are pretty close between the two Western Cape rivals; with the Maties (78) just three points ahead of the Ikeys (75) on an overall Varsity Cup log – based on the 19 matches played by both sides, up till now, in the competition.
“It’s just a fantastic rivalry and we are privileged to have a derby, and such a contest, against a club as great as Maties,” said Dobson.
“They are an outstanding rugby team, blessed with massive talent. We are in awe of all they have at Maties, so just to compete against them is a privilege.”
The FNB UCT team: 15 Therlow Pietersen, 14 Pete Haw, 13 Marcel Brache, 12 Sean van Tonder, 11 Marcello Sampson, 10 Matt Rosslee, 9 Stu Commins (captain), 8 JJ Gagiano (vice-captain), 7 Mike Morris, 6 Sam Peter, 5 Donovan Armand, 4 Mike Ledwidge, 3 Grant Kemp, 2 Dayne Jans, 1 Ash Wells.
Replacements: 16 Mark Goosen, 17 Chris Heiberg, 18 Levi Odendaal, 19 Greg Mallett, 20 JP Robert, 21 Douglas Mallett, 22 Mark Esterhuizen, 23 Wesley Chetty.
Head coach: John Dobson
Assistant coach: Kevin Foote
Date: Monday, March 8
Venue: Danie Craven Stadium
Kick-off: 8.30pm (Live on SuperSport One)
Referee: Dilbert November