Monday’s 39-33 last-gasp win for the Ikey Tigers over NWU-Pukke saw them crowned Varsity Cup champions for the second time in the tournament’s history.
Scoring three tries in the final five minutes of the game, the team pulled off the greatest ever comeback in the entirety of the Varsity Cup. Upon arriving home with the trophy, UCTRFC caught up with coach Kevin Musikanth to chat about the historical win.
Q: What quality is it within the team that enabled them to hang on and fight back like that?
A: We made a commitment that no matter what we would keep going until the end and keep fighting. Whether we were winning or losing we wanted to be tigers. And the boys had the fight in them, they probably just needed the spark that the bench brought onto the field.
Q: What was said to the team during the second strategy break?
Our mental performance coach, Tom Dawson Squibb, superbly handled the strategy breaks during the tournament. The message was clear: we wanted action. However, the boys themselves pulled this one out of the bag as they made the decision to switch on the Ikey Tiger default switch which ‘attack’.
Q: How would describe the fight that NWU-Pukke put up?
A: Pukke had the game all sewn up. A final match is a strange animal and UCT have been on the back end of being ahead at 80 minutes only to have the Varsity Cup taken from them in the 81st minute. Professor Tim Noakes has been part of our team and warned us to keep playing until the final whistle which is often after 80 minutes. Finals are often decided on the last play of the game, so no matter what, never give up. Good teams don't lose they just run out of time and that's what appeared to happen with us until that drop goal was charged down and then 13 of our players handled the ball before Nathan Nel scored that beautiful varsity cup winning try!
Q: How are the team and coaching staff feeling now that they are Varsity Cup champions?
A: The team always believed. You know as coaches you are so emotionally attached to the players that you desperately want what is best for them, but ultimately they have to play themselves. These boys are a special bunch; for a team to score 24 points in 7 minutes in a final is magical, so the boys had it in them. The petrol of the final was thrown across the field by the starting players and Martin Sauls ignited the UCT flame as he had a hand on every try in the last 7 minutes. That flame carried the trophy all the way back to Cape Town.
Q: What would you say was the turning point in the match?
The turning point was the intensity with which the bench approached their role within the script of this cup. They came on with heat, passion and desire to make an impact and they only had a few minutes to do that. Ultimately a few minutes was all they needed. The charged down kick from Michael Botha and Chad Solomon's inside pass to Nathan Nel must be turning points.
Q: What do you think this game in particular revealed about this Ikey Tigers team?
A: The boys played with a belief and spirit that enabled them to get to the play offs. The winning of the trophy was the culmination of the 50/50 marriage between the technical and emotional aspects of the game. Sometimes it is not rugby skill that determines whether you win or lose, it is whether you are prepared to fight right until the end, win or lose, for your team because there is a deeper meaning of playing together. Sometimes the fight is enough in a close game – that was the case on Monday. This Ikey Tigers team refused to give up throughout the campaign; scoring tries at the death against NMMU, Tuks, Maties in the round robin game, and lastly in the final. So what the final revealed was the willingness of the boys to always keep fighting and playing.
Q: Any other comments?
A: Inches have been added to this campaign by everyone involved in any way. The support of all the players that didn’t get much game time; players that were involved at the beginning before the first cut; all the gym sessions in the satellite HPC gym at Wynberg for the extended squad; the touring players and every single person on the coaching and management staff as well as the university sport have added inches to this campaign. And in a game of inches as we saw in the final just one inch could be the difference between winning and losing. Every inch counts and everyone has contributed to a magical Varsity Cup campaign. We can all be very proud Varsity Cup champions as we look forward to the next challenge of the WP Super League starting Saturday.