The FNB Ikey Tigers secured their second successive World University Rugby Cup title last week in Kamiigusa Stadium, Japan – when the South African Varsity Cup side took on Bordeaux University in the tournament’s final match.
The Ikeys squad went unbeaten throughout the tournament, overcoming the University of British Columbia (Canada), Bordeaux University (France), and a combined New Zealand Universities squad (New Zealand) in the group stages. UCT then faced old foes Oxford University (United Kingdom) in the semi-finals, who they met at the same stage in the tournament four years earlier; before going on to secure the title over the French side.
The Ikey Tigers claimed the inaugural title in Oxford, UK in 2015 by beating Trinity College Dublin, after being selected following their 2014 Varsity Cup triumph. UCT RFC Club Director, Johnny Biderman-Pam commented on the significance of the team’s achievement:
“Winning back-to-back World University Rugby Cup titles is an indication of the strength not only of UCT rugby, but South African rugby on the whole. This Ikeys squad have come to Japan and made a huge statement on the international stage, setting the benchmark for university rugby world over.”
As the Japan 2019 Rugby World Cup tournament progresses, South African rugby fans will hope that UCT’s success will be mirrored by that of South Africa’s national team.
In addition to winning the World University Rugby Cup title, the Ikeys pinpointed watching the Springboks take on New Zealand in their Rugby World Cup opening fixture in Yokohama Stadium as a standout highlight of the tour. Notably, three former UCT rugby players – Siya Kolisi (Captain), Eben Etzebeth and Damian de Allende – formed part of South Africa’s starting XV who took on New Zealand, adding a special dimension to the game for some of the Club’s management team who overlapped with these special players during their time at UCT.
Junior Springbok, Western Province and Ikey Tigers flanker, Nama Xaba commented:
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, to travel to another country, experience a different culture, play against some of the top university rugby clubs in the world, and watch your heroes play in the Rugby World Cup – it just doesn’t get better than this.“
What is perhaps equally as impressive as winning the tournament, is the fact that the Ikeys Japan tour was fully funded by the direct efforts of the Club’s volunteer, player and supporter community. In January the Club launched its Japan Tour Fundraising Campaign, which aimed to secure enough funding to get the 35-man touring squad and staff to Japan. Through shirt sponsor deals, a series of player-led fundraising events, and a community Raffle and Auction Night, the Club managed to hit its target in August.
Ikey Tigers captain, Liam Greenhalgh commented:
“The squad has been overwhelmed by the support that we have received from the Ikey community. From individual donations to messages of support on social media, it has all formed part of the success of this tour. It is this type of generosity and support that makes the Ikey Tiger community so unique and so very special.”
The Ikeys touring squad have returned to South Africa, where they will have a short break before beginning preparations for their 2020 Varsity Cup campaign.