All eyes will be on Potchefstroom and Pretoria on Monday night as the likes of Pukke, UJ and Tuks continue to chase the top two teams in the 2010 FNB Varsity Cup presented by Steinhoff International – the defending champion Maties and the Ikey Tigers.
With the Maties boasting a full-house of 15 points from three matches, and UCT next best on the Varsity Cup log with 11 points from their three games; Pukke, UJ and Tuks cannot afford to slip up this coming week with just three rounds of league action remaining after Week Four.
FNB Tuks, one would argue, have a slightly easier fixture – against FNB NMMU at home – but the Pukke v UJ encounter at the Fanie du Toit Stadium could have a significant effect on both teams’ semifinal chances this season.
Of course, do not discount Shimlas from the Last Four equation either, but they do have the rather unenviable task of travelling to Stellenbosch for their Round Four clash against the Maties.
Shimlas suffered their first loss of the season this past Monday, in Potchefstroom to the Pukke, and the city of Potch will be in focus again in Week Four as the University of Johannesburg make the dash from the ‘Big Smoke’ in a bid to keep their 2010 semifinal aspirations alive.
UJ, who went down 10-43 to the Maties last Monday, cannot really afford a loss at this stage of the season, but few teams have managed to return from Potch with four points – even if Shimlas are still smarting from their 16-17 Round Three loss. Shimlas led 10-0 at one stage against Pukke, but last year’s losing finalists fought back strongly to record their second win of the season – a victory which means they will be a lot more relaxed than UJ come 6.30pm on Monday evening.
“At times in those first 40 minutes [against Shimlas] we were too focused on attacking and our mindset wasn’t always to bring the guy to the ground,” explained Pukke captain Dirco Rautenbach this week. “[But] I think it will be right come Monday when we play UJ.”
When asked about what had been worked on at training this week – ahead of the UJ fixture – he added: “Our concentration at the tackle area, with the new interpretation, also needs to improve as we conceded too many penalties against Shimlas. If you make the tackle, you must role away, as simple as that. However, I must mention that it got better as the match unfolded.”
Pukke have, again, made a few injury-enforced changes to their team, but the most interesting selection by experienced coach Rudy Joubert is that of Willem Barnard at inside centre. Barnard, normally a fullback, has replaced Leopards Currie Cup flyhalf Cecil Dumond in the No.12 jersey, the latter dropping out of their matchday squad altogether.
UJ, too, have made an interesting choice in their backline, with Ryno Luus – the top points-scorer – replacing regular flyhalf (and SA Students ace) André Smith in the No.10 jersey. Clearly coach Hugo van As has a trick up his sleeve.
Looking at the rest of the Round Four fixtures, UCT will kick things off on Monday at 4.30pm (live on SuperSport One) against TUT in Cape Town, the latter having endured a tough week; first throwing away a 24-12 lead against Tuks and then having to deal with their captain Emile Verster’s citing.
Verster was red-carded in the closing stages of TUT’s eventual 30-42 loss to Tuks – for using foul language at referee Mlungiseli Mdashe – but was cleared of any wrong-doing on Friday, thereby freeing him up to lead his side at the Green Mile.
Despite having Verster in the mix, one would have to back UCT to take this match – as they have done against TUT in 2008 and 2009 – but the Men in Blue & White are not reading anything into the Vikings’ recent performances.
“Despite their current log position, TUT are a quality side,” experienced UCT loose forward JJ Gagiano told varsitycup.co.za.
“It might sound clichéd, but we are simply focusing on each game as it comes. This Monday we have to ensure we beat TUT, and maybe even claim a bonus point, and then only can we look ahead to our next match.
“The Varsity Cup is a tough tournament and because it’s all over in two months, you can easily come short if you start looking ahead too far without concentrating on what’s ahead in the coming week.”
Aside from the two 6.30pm matches – Pukke v UJ and Tuks v NMMU (the other televised match of the week) – the Maties will bring an end to proceedings on Monday when they clash with Shimlas at the Danie Craven Stadium at 7.30pm.
The home side are expecting a massive crowd – according to coach Chean Roux some 12,000 season tickets have already been sold this year – and it seems doubtful that the Maties juggernaut will be stopped in its tracks; even against this very good Shimlas side.
“No other team can draw a crowd like the Maties,” Stellenbosch halfback Conrad Hoffmann enthused this week, “it’s incredible!
“I’ve obviously played in front of some bigger crowds before, but the student influence in the crowd makes for an unbelievable atmosphere at the Danie Craven Stadium.”
The fixtures and team line-ups for Monday, February 22, 2010:
FNB UCT v FNB TUT, Groote Schuur
Kick-off: 4.30pm (Live on SuperSport One)
Referee: Luke Burger
UCT: 15 Therlow Pietersen, 14 Paul Cohen, 13 Marcel Brache, 12 Tim Whitehead, 11 Marcello Sampson, 10 Matt Rosslee, 9 Stu Commins (captain), 8 Sam Peter, 7 JJ Gagiano, 6 Yaya Hartzenberg, 5 Martin Muller, 4 Levi Odendaal, 3 Grant Kemp, 2 Mark Goosen, 1 Ash Wells.
Replacements: 16 Dayne Jans, 17 Chris Heidberg, 18 Mike Ledwidge, 19 Greg Mallett, 20 JP Robert, 21 Douglas Mallett, 22 Sean van Tonder, 23 Shane Meier.
TUT: 15 Hansie Graaff, 14 Johan Swartz, 13 Jaco Oosthuizen, 12 Lutho Nyeka, 11 Thabo Motau, 10 Jacques Venter, 9 Manny Raposo, 8 Wikus Botes, 7 Emile Verster (captain), 6, Vincent Gwavu, 5, Dewald van Deventer 4 Johan Steenkamp, 3 Braam van der Merwe, 2 Dean Muir, 1 Juan Pike.
Replacements: 16 Alfred Khoza, 17 Jacques van Rooyen, 18 Werner Lourens, 19 Ryno Lopes, 20 Theunis Schoeman, 21 Simphiwe Mtkulu, 22 Ruan van Loo, 23 Johann Visser.
FNB Pukke v FNB UJ, Fanie du Toit Stadium
Referee: Matt Kemp
Pukke: 15 Theuns Kotzé, 14 Dane Johnson, 13 Ruan Jacobs, 12 Willem Barnard, 11 Johannes Seerane, 10 Niell Jacobs, 9 Andries Mahoney, 8 Francois Robbertse, 7 Siya Mdaka, 6 Jaco Lötter, 5 Markus Fourie, 4 Dirco Rautenbach (captain), 3 Johan Coetzee, 2 Stoffel Duvenage, 1 BG Uys.
Replacements: 16 BW van Dyk, 17 Dewald Coetzee, 18 Edwin Hewitt, 19 Jan Rose, 20 Wensley Scott, 21 Andrew van Wyk, 22 SP Marias, 23 Stefan Bezuidenhout.
UJ: 15 Earl Lewis, 14 Bernado Botha, 13 Clinton de Klerk (captain), 12 Luhan Steenkamp, 11 Lola Waka, 10 Ryno Luus, 9 Jaco Snyman, 8 Hennie Kilian, 7 Wiehan Roos, 6 JP Janse van Rensburg, 5 Marnes van Huyssteen, 4 Martyn Lombard, 3 Clint van Niekerk, 2 Edgar Marutlulle, 2 KP du Plessis.
Replacements: 16 Brett Claassen, 17 JP Olivier, 18 Jaco Claasen, 19 Corné Cordier, 20 Rinus Riekert, 21 Danny Botha, 22 André Smith, 23 Aubrey McDonald.
FNB Tuks v FNB NMMU, Tuks Rugby Stadium
Kick-off: 6.30pm (Live on SuperSport One)
Referee: Dilbert November
NMMU: 15 Aluzant Munnik, 14 Oscar Mazaka, 13 B Gerber, 12 Wade Roos, 11 Williams Heydenrych, 10 Willem Laubscher, 9 Luso Booi (captain), 8 Samuel Borsaah, 7 Mathew Lutge, 6 Thomasau Forbes, 5 Chris Dicks, 4 Jannie Fourie, 3 Pierre Hammand, 2 Hugo Lampbrechts, 1 Chariel van Jaarsveld.
Replacements: 16 Werner Kapp, 17 H Basson, 18 De Wet De Lange, 19 Ferdi Gerber, 20 H van Heerden, 21 Phiwe Lallendle, 22 C van Niekerk, 23 Stefan de Klerk.
FNB Maties v FNB Shimlas, Danie Craven Stadium
Referee: François Veldsman
Maties: 15 Jurgen Visser, 14 Danie Poolman, 13 Stokkies Hanekom, 12 Stephan van der Merwe, 11 Tythan Adams, 10 Conrad Hoffmann, 9 Johan Herbst, 8 Tertius Daniller, 7 Jonathan Adendorf, 6 Sam Mabombo, 5 Marinus Pretorius, 4 Andrew Prior, 3 Lourens Adriaanse (captain), 2 Matthew Dobson, 1 Johan Roets.
Replacements: 16 Andrew Crausaz, 17 Mike De Neuilly-Rice, 18 Cameron Peverett, 19 Josh Strauss, 20 André Kemp, 21 Adnaan Oesman, 22 Jonathan Francke, 23 Buhle Mxunuywa.
Shimlas: 15 George Whitehead, 14 Divandré Strydom, 13 Earl Snyman, 12 Wayne Stevens (captain), 11 Jamba Ulengo, 10 Reinhardt Erwee, 9 Jaco Colyn, 8 Boom Prinsloo, 7 Willie Britz, 6 Hanno Pieterse, 5 Lebo Zietsman, 4 Joubert Horn, 3 Vaatjie Koorsen, 2 Hans Grobler, 1 Charles Marais.
Replacements: 16 PW van Vuuren, 17 Ian Potgieter, 18 Wilken Heyns, 19 Sybrand Mostert, 20 Marlin Ruiters, 21 Johan van Schalkwyk, 22 Beast Ndwandwa, 23 Marcel van der Merwe.