Rosslee’s early birthday presents

It’s been quite a big fortnight for FNB UCT flyhalf Matt Rosslee. In between picking up successive Man of the Match awards in the FNB Varsity Cup presented by Steinhoff International, the gutsy No.10 also celebrated his birthday.

Rosslee turned 22 this past Tuesday, just a day after he nonchalantly ‘chipped’ over a 35-metre penalty goal in the wet to hand UCT a thrilling 24-22 victory over the (then) table-topping FNB Tukkies.

The unassuming No.10 walked off with the official Man of the Match honours – much to his teammates’ delight! – but for him, the win was more important for the team than any role he played in achieving the victory.

“The guys have been pestering me to buy them a few drinks,” chuckled Rosslee. “But to be honest, it’s not about me winning any awards, it’s about the team winning games and we achieved that on Monday, despite not playing very well.”

The Ikey Tigers went down 0-13 in the first half against Tukkies – “we were half asleep”, according to Rosslee – but the Capetonians showed tremendous character to fight back and eventually grab a late, but crucial victory.

“Winning (a game) like we did on Monday is the sign of a good side,” said Rosslee to “I think we’re growing as a team each and every week, but the best thing about this side is its spirit and camaraderie – we just love playing together and for each other.”

There was a lot of talk before the 2009 Varsity Cup about this UCT team. Aside from the big names on its coaching staff, many wondered whether the Ikeys would be able to repeat their near-success of 2008 when they thrilled friend and foe alike en route to the final.

With the likes of Kyle Brown (SA Sevens) and Mat Turner (England Sevens) moving onto pastures anew, and with Herbie Mayosi (Forward of the Tournament) and James Martin (Back of the Tournament) no longer eligible for the Varsity Cup (due to being too old), questions were asked… and promptly answered.

“I think, in the beginning, people were comparing us to last year’s team,” admitted Rosslee, himself a star of the 2008 UCT outfit. “But that’s stopped now. We’re a new team, with new players and we have a chance to make a name for ourselves in the 2009 Varsity Cup.”

Of course, having the likes of Jake White, Bob Skinstad, Tim Noakes and Sherryle Calder alongside John Dobson (head coach), Robbie Fleck (backline coach) and Selborne Boome (lineout coach) on the UCT management also makes life a bit easier for the Men in Blue and White.

“It’s such a professional set-up at the club,” enthused Rosslee.

“It’s obviously  an honour to learn from people like Jake, Bob and Sherryle – all of whom are World Cup winners – but it’s quite inspiring for us players when we know that they’re putting in all this time and effort simply for the love of the game.”

On a personal level, the 2009 Varsity Cup is shaping up as yet another satisfactory campaign for Matt Rosslee. Having scored 82 points in 2008 – ending second on the overall points-scoring charts – he is currently in third position after four matches in 2009, having notched up 45 points; just five behind the top man, Maties’ Donald Stevens.

The mere mention of Maties brings us onto UCT’s opening day loss to the defending champions. The Ikeys went down 10-12 in a titanic struggle, with Rosslee missing five shots at goal. The UCT man, however, takes a philosphical view – as he did when questioned about slotting the match-winning effort on Monday night and, indeed, in last year’s dramatic semifinal win over Pukke.

“For me it’s not about winning or losing matches, I set high standards for myself and it was disappointing to have missed those kicks against Stellenbosch (from that point of view),” he said.

“There’s no point beating yourself up when you miss crucial kicks, but at the same time, there’s no point in getting ahead of yourself when you kick the winning kick. It’s funny though, I thought my general performance against the Maties was my best game of the season, yet I won the Match of the Match against UJ and Tukkies because I kicked well at goal!”

But his goal-kicking and UCT’s well-being aside, Rosslee has another battle to conquer in 2009 – his studies. In fact, having played the odd Currie Cup match for WP last year, his major ambition for this year is to complete his studies at UCT.

“I’m doing my finance honours,” said Rosslee, “it’s my last year of studies, so I have to make sure I get that out the way.

“Winning the Varsity Cup would obviously be a huge thing, but in terms of the rest of the year, I need to concentrate on my studies. If I don’t make it back into the WP mix this year, there is always 2010, but I can’t afford to neglect my studies.”

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