The Ikey Tigers have made several changes to their 23-man squad for the upcoming Monte Taljaard encounter against NMMU on the Green Mile, in the third round of the Varsity Cup.
The game is played in memory of UCT first XV flanker and Grey PE rugby star, Monte Taljaard, who passed away in a car accident in September 2008.
Given his roots in both Cape Town and Port Elizabeth, the Varsity Cup game doubles up as a celebration of his life on an annual basis.
Speaking about the changes made to the squad in medical terms, UCT coach Kevin Musikanth said, “our superb medical staff – Geoff Huber, Mike van Rheede, and Robin Arkell – have worked their magic and managed to get most of our boys back on the field.”
The biggest change for the side comes in the form of captain, Michael Botha, making his way back to the starting line-up, following an injury on the cusp of their previous game against Tuks. The coach explains that they will look for the skipper to “lead from the front” in the NMMU game, and provide the technical experience necessary to guide the team.
While Ikey’s Richard Stewart and Michael Kennedy – who were also ruled out of the Tuks match, only hours before – are still side-lined due to injury, the return of Botha is sure to be significant for the team.
Referring once again to the team medical staff, Musikanth said, “they have been superb with the medical management and we are confident that they will have the rest of our guys back soon.”
Other changes for the defending champs come in the form of Paul Cohen returning to the starting line-up in the fullback position, Nicholas Holten taking his place in the starting line-up, and winger Dean Gerricke making his debut for the 2015 Varsity Cup, staring from the bench.
The game against the Madibaz is the side’s second home fixture of the season, a factor which is sure to be significant. As the coach says, “we are happy to be back home for two fixtures. The blue and white in the stands certainly gives the lads something to play for.”
Following their training session on Wednesday, he noted, “we had a good session with the boys, and they are keen to bring-it for the supporters on the Green Mile.”
However, given the Tigers’ loss against Tuks in Round Two, and their first round draw against Maties, Monday’s game is sure to be a tough assignment. As the coach says, simply put “in terms of the competition, this now becomes a must-win for us.”
The UCT vs NMMU game kicks off at 18:30 on Monday, February 23, and will not be broadcast on Supersport.
FNB UCT: 15 Paul Cohen, 14 Khanyo Ngcukana, 13 Lihleli Xoli, 12 Nicholas Holten, 11 Dylan Sage, 10 Warren Seals, 9 James Alexander, 8 Guy Alexander, 7 Michael Botha (c), 6 Jason Klaasen, 5 James Kilroe, 4 Mark Prior, 3 Digby Webb, 2 Chad Solomon, 1 Joel Carew.
Replacements: 16 Msizil Zondi, 17 Kyle Whyte, 18 Jade Kriel, 19 Luke Stringer, 20 Ryan Dugmore, 21 Guy Schiwikkard, 22 Dean Gerricke, 23 David Maasch.