The Ikey Tigers – along with the FNB Maties – have been one of the better teams in the history of the 2010 FNB Varsity Cup. However, the Men from Cape Town have not tasted final success yet – despite coming close on two occasions – by Howie Kahn
In 2008, the Ikeys went down to the Maties in the last few seconds of the inaugural final in Stellenbosch, before, last season, throwing away home-ground advantage in the semifinals against Pukke.
This year, however, there is a different kind of determination in this FNB UCT playing group, and – according to stalwart lock Don Armand – they have learnt from their previous play-off experiences.
“There is a feeling of unfinished business amongst some members of our squad,” said Armand, a survivor from the 2008 and 2009 tournaments, ahead of Monday’s semifinal meeting against the FNB Shimlas at Groote Schuur (kick-off 4.15pm).
“We were very unlucky in the 2008 final, having had one hand on the trophy, but last year we let everyone down – including ourselves and, in particular, the coaching staff – and come Monday (against the Shimlas) we cannot afford to do the same.”
Armand was not involved in the 2008 Varsity Cup Final – when the Maties won 16-10 – but he started last year’s semifinal against the Pukke, which UCT lost 17-19 – a defeat which still rankles for the 21-year-old lock forward.
“I don’t think we believed enough in ourselves (last year),” admitted Don, “We had played against Pukke the week before, in Potch, and lost and I don’t think we believed (enough) that we could beat them the following week.
“For that reason alone, I think we’re a lot better placed this year,” he added. “We really believe in ourselves, and in our game, and we know what we need to do to beat the Shimlas, who – it must be said – are a very, very good team.”
UCT have never lost to Shimlas in the history of the Varsity Cup, with the Ikeys winning league matches in 2008 (28-14) and 2009 (23-20), before these two sides played to an exciting 30-30 draw in this year’s opening day’s action in Port Elizabeth.
“They will come for us – there is no doubt about that,” said Armand.
“They have a very good loose trio and we will need to cut them off and also take any chances that come our way – two aspects that let us down in that opening match earlier this year.”
Of course, going into Monday’s match, the Ikeys have the advantage of playing at home, coupled with the benefit of having played in two semifinals, previously, and that 2008 final.
Said Armand: “Playing at home is a such a big boost… I know the wind can get a bit crazy, at times, but we are the best in those conditions and used to playing there.
“Of course, we have a great crowd behind us and they know us (players) well, so it does make a big difference playing in front of our loyal fans.
“We’re very thankful for the support we get and even though some might see it as added pressure, it would be great if we could win the match for them – as well as ourselves and our coaches, who have been excellent yet again.”