Regular Ikey Tigers vice-captain Stuart Commins – who is back to full fitness after suffering a wrist injury against the Maties in early February – has been handed the No.9 shirt for FNB UCT’s Varsity Cup clash against Shimlas on Monday, March 9.
Twenty-year-old Commins spent some time in a decompression chamber to aid his recovery from what appeared to be a Varsity Cup-ending injury and after coming off the bench last week, head coach John Dobson has restored him to the starting line-up for UCT’s last home league match of the season.
He replaces JP Robert at scrumhalf, despite the latter’s Man of the Match performance against NMMU on Monday – a game UCT won 36-17.
Robert, however, is amongst the replacements in one of six changes to the UCT starting line-up that dealt with NMMU in Port Elizabeth.
“There has been an awful amount of competition at scrumhalf this year,” Dobson told varsitycup.co.za.
“Last year Danie van der Merwe basically owned the No.9 jersey, with Stu and Kyle Wickins covering.
“Stu’s injury in our first game was unfortunate, but then JP Robert came from nowhere and put pressure on Kyle Wickins who did very well for us in the first four games.
“It’s hard to leave JP out this week, but we want to give Stu enough time to get his match fitness back.
“JP is one for the future and Kyle is a very good big-match player… We will have another look at Kyle and Stu against Pukke next week and make a call after that for the play-offs – if we make them, of course!”
When asked about his selection difficulties this week, Dobson added: “The scrumhalf position is a great example of the fantastic depth we have managed to create at the university.
“Yes, it’s hard as a coach to keep everyone happy, but as I’ve said on countless occasions, the Varsity Cup is not about 15 players, or even just about 22 players, it’s about 26 or 27 players.”
In other changes to the backline that showed good touches against NMMU, Marcello Sampson replaces an injured Marvin Christians on the left-wing, whilst Matt Rosslee – a key man for the Ikey Tigers this season – is back at flyhalf, with Michael Nel returning to the bench.
Rosslee was rested from the NMMU encounter after two successive Man of the Match showings against UJ and Tukkies and his return is a big boost to UCT ahead of the business-end of this competition – especially with Tiger Bax now in the Stormers mix.
Hard-working No.7 flanker Enoch Panya is back from taking a well-deserved breather last week, whilst Dobson has also once again called upon Dayne Jans and Dylan Rogers at hooker and loosehead prop, respectively, after they came off the bench against NMMU.
“Things are coming together nicely,” admitted Dobson, “but we’d love nothing more than ending our league season at home with a win over Shimlas.
“They showed last week against Tukkies how dangerous they are, but we’ve done our homework and we know that a win on Monday could basically secure us a home semifinal.”
FNB UCT: 15 Therlow Pietersen, 14 Dane Johnson, 13 Pieter Engelbrecht, 12 Sean van Tonder, 11 Marcello Sampson, 10 Matt Rosslee, 9 Stuart Commins, 8 JJ Gagiano (captain), 7 Enoch Panya, 6 Nick Fenton-Wells, 5 Donovan Armand, 4 Michael Passaportis, 3 Shane Meier, 2 Dayne Jans, 1 Dylan Rogers.
Replacements: 16 Mark Goosen, 17 Ashley Wells, 18 Dane Galley, 19 Kuselo Moyake, 20 JP Robert, 21 Peter Haw, 22 Michael Nel.
Head coach: John Dobson
Assistant coach: Robbie Fleck
Kick-off: Monday, March 9, 6.45pm, Groote Schuur