We spoke to Ikey Tigers and 2021 Varsity Cup Runners Up coach Tom Dawson Squibb about the team’s preparation and what lies ahead in 2022. 

Are you doing anything different in pre-season this year?

The preseason is different in that this time last year we were forbidden from making contact. So I suppose we have already changed. We also have had to navigate later than usual exams and thus have eased into preseason a bit more than we usually would have.

Have any new players joined the squad?

We are so proud of all the guys who have gone onto pro rugby from our squad, as well as those who have gone to study overseas. Of course, this leaves us with a very high player turnover, but now a new enthusiastic group to work with. We have a few chaps coming to further their studies at UCT from other universities, as well as some really exciting guys from schools across the country coming to study at UCT.

Any changes to the coaching lineup?

The Godfather, Paul Day is back in the mix taking the scrums. We are also very sad to be losing our energetic and inimitable Felo Sangweni, as WP came knocking for his full-time services. He will be sorely missed!

Any learnings from the Covid bubble you might keep/implement?

I think the importance of spending time together. As players, as players and management and as management with management. Because no one is a full-time player or rugby coach we got the opportunity to spend more time together than ever before. This was a huge positive. So I think the learning is to always try to make time for each other to connect and to help each other improve. 

How do the VC specific law differences influence your coaching?

One needs to be aware of them but not obsessed with them. The point of origin rule for example I believe is not a great rule. I think it doesn’t really influence the way teams intentionally play but rather punishes errors more than anything. If we score a point of origin try then we are chuffed, but I don’t think teams are actively coaching to try and score them. The free catch rule is a rule though that changes your game a fair bit and one needs to be mindful of it.

Any tweaks to the game plan that worked so well in 2021?

Our idea is evolution, not revolution. We did a lot right and we also learned some hard lessons. We want to evolve parts of our game rather than reinvent the wheel.

What do you think the opposition might be doing to counter UCT’s game?

I think Varsity Cup teams change every year so much, so the UCT team of 2022 won’t look much like the UCT team of 2021 in terms of personnel. Teams will analyse us and look for weaknesses. But I suppose most teams will try and bully us and stop our attacking-minded game from functioning. 

Things you are most looking forward to in 2022?

It is just an awesome competition – simple, energetic and highly competitive and I think being part of it is a privilege. I can’t wait to see players getting the opportunity to test themselves and to live up to their potential – that is probably the most exciting part of it all.

Has Fleckie cracked a smile at training yet?

Sporadically rather than often 🙂 

Does Gerrie know how to work PowerPoint yet?

Haha, baby steps!

If you were allowed one rule tweak to try in VC 2022, what would it be?

Put a limit on mauls in a game – I’m not sure teams mauling north of 70% of their lineouts is good for the game.