FNB UCT backline star Tiger Bax is down to start at flyhalf for the Ikeys in Monday’s Varsity Cup fixture against the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) if he passes a late fitness test Saturday afternoon. If Bax is not fit, he will be replaced by Sean van Tonder.
Bax comes in for match-winner Matt Rosslee in one of 11 changes – one of which is positional – to the Ikey Tigers outfit that eeked out a 24-22 win over the previously unbeaten FNB Tuks this past Monday.
Rosslee gets a well-deserved break after a series of outstanding performances for the Ikeys, with Bax’s place at outside centre going to 19-year-old Michael Nel.
Powerhouse inside centre Pieter Engelbrecht, who was rested from the Tuks game, is back at No.12 in Van Tonder’s place, whilst Dane Johnson replaces Marvin Christians as UCT’s rotation policy continues at wing.
Scrumhalf JP Robert gets his first Varsity Cup start after some impressive showings as a replacement, with a fit-again Stu Commins named on the bench ahead of Kyle Wickens.
Commins injured his wrist in UCT’s opening 2009 FNB Varsity Cup presented by Steinhoff International fixture against the Maties, but has made a quick recovery – much to head coach John Dobson’s delight.
“It’s great to have Stu back, but a guy like JP took his chances in Stu’s absence,” Dobson told varsitycup.co.za.
“We all know what Kyle Wickens can do, so we’re in for some tough selection decisions – it’s a headache for us coaches, but a nice position in terms of creating depth in the squad!”
Dobson, as he did last week, has made a few changes to his pack, with the likes of Enoch Panya and Dylan Rogers – two key men – getting breathers this week. (Rogers is on the bench, Panya is not.)
All-action flanker Kuselo Moyake will wear the No.7 jersey in Panya’s absence, with former NPC player Ashley Wells getting a start at loosehead prop.
In other changes up front, Nick Fenton-Wells and Michael Passaportis are back for Michael Morris and Martin Muller at flank and lock, respectively, whilst Shane Meier replaces Brad Gornall at tighthead prop and WP hooker Mark Goosen gets a run ahead of Dayne Jans in the No.2 jersey.
“We rested five players for the Tuks game, as part of our campaign management project and we still got the win, so it’s nice to have some frontliners back and fresh this week,” added Dobson.
“It’s not about making loads of changes for NMMU, but we think we need 26 or 27 players for this campaign and all of them fit and match ready as the play-offs draw nearer. You cannot flog the same 22 week-in and week-out and that’s what we’re trying to prevent here.”
Monday’s match against NMMU – which will be televised live on SuperSport 1 – will double up as the inaugural Monte Taljaard Trophy match in memory of Monte Taljaard, a Grey PE and UCT old boy who was killed in a car accident last September.
“Monte was a once-in-a-generation guy and player,” said Dobson. “He is still missed at the club to this day and will never be forgotten by anybody who was lucky enough to come into contact with him.”
The Ikeys coach added: “(Varsity Cup MD) Duitser Bosman and his team have been phenomenal in allowing us to honour Monte in this way.
“We certainly don’t want to take any focus away from this fantastic competition – but Monte was not just a loss to UCT, he was also a loss to the Varsity Cup and the rugby-playing fraternity of South Africa.”
UPDATE: Saturday’s Western Province trials and Tiger Bax failing a fitness test, forced the UCT coaching team’s hands and had them reshuffle their team slightly:
UCT: 15 Therlow Pietersen, 14 Marcello Sampson, 13 Pieter Engelbrecht, 12 Sean van Tonder, 11 Dane Johnson, 10 Michael Nel, 9 JP Robert, 8 JJ Gagiano (captain), 7 Kuselo Moyake, 6 Nick Fenton-Wells, 5 Don Armand, 4 Michael Passaportis, 3 Shane Meier, 2 Mark Goosen, 1 Ashley Wells.
Replacements: 16 Dayne Jans, 17 Dylan Rogers, 18 Dane Galley, 19 Michael Morris, 20 Stu Commins, 21 Marvin Christians, 22 Pete Haw.
Head coach: John Dobson
Assistant coach: Robbie Fleck
Kick-off: Monday, March 2, 6.45pm, Xerox NMMU Stadium South Campus