Varsity Cup Intensifying
The semi-finalists in the 2012 Varsity Cup have been confirmed, but there is a lot at stake in Monday's Round Seven fixtures as any one of the top three teams can still claim home-ground advantage in the Last Four.
Going into the final week of fixtures, the unbeaten Maties are on top of the log with 27 points from six matches, followed by FNB UP-Tuks on 25 points, FNB UJ on 22 and FNB NWU-Pukke on 19 points.
Even the log-leading Maties are not assured of a home semi-final and there will also be an element of revenge on the minds of the Stellenbosch students - former winners of this tournament - when they travel to Johannesburg to take on UJ on Monday.
UJ smashed the Maties by 39-19 at the Danie Craven Stadium in the corresponding fixture last year - a result which saw the Men in Maroon dramatically miss out on a first-ever Varsity Cup semi-final appearance.
A similar result this year would see the Men in Orange secure a home semi, with the Maties then potentially in danger of missing out on a home play-off match should UP-Tuks have accounted for FNB UCT earlier in the day.
"I guess we'll know what to do by the time our game starts," said Maties coach Chean Roux when asked about his team's semi-final prospects.
"Not that it should really matter to us, but I think UCT will beat Tuks in the 5pm match. The Ikeys will be psyched up after the season they've had and with a nasty South Easter at the Green Mile... well, anything can happen.
"But even if Tuks lose I don't think we'll just settle for a loss as we could end up playing UJ later on in the tournament and we'd certainly love to take some momentum into the play-offs."
With the top four teams fighting it out for semi-final places, teams five through eight will face a mini-battle of their own come Monday's final round of fixtures.
Amongst those four teams are reigning champions FNB UCT - the first time they are not hosting or playing in a Varsity Cup semi-final - and they will be joined by FNB NMMU, FNB Shimlas and the winless FNB TUT.
Whilst TUT will automatically be relegated at the season-end - to be replaced the winners of the Varsity Shield - they could still have a final say as to who plays in the one-off promotion/relegation match against the Shield runners-up.
One would argue that the Shimlas are the safest in fifth place (on 11 log points), but they have to travel to Potchefstroom to face NWU-Pukke, whilst the Madibaz - the darlings of the 2012 season - should not expect any favours from the Shield-bound Vikings, who are determined to sign off with at least one victory.
And then UCT have the prospect of facing up to UP-Tuks, the team they beat in last year's final, knowing that a win will keep them away from that dreaded promotion/relegation match... but also aware what a loss would mean to them.
But even if UCT win they could still finish below Shimlas and NMMU - and thereby end in seventh place - but coach Kevin Foote is simply thinking about 5pm on Monday; in one of two televised matches in the seventh round (the other being the UJ-Maties clash at 7pm).
"It's never been about other teams - it's always been about us and how we play and execute our gameplan," said Foote.
"If we cut out our silly errors and get on the front early on, then I'm confident we can end the season on a high.
"I cannot fault my team when it comes to commitment... all I require from them is another 80 committed minutes, and better execution, and then we can hopefully avoid that play-off match."
Varsity Cup fixtures and team line-ups for Monday, March 19:
FNB UCT vs. FNB UP-Tuks
UCT Rugby Fields (Cape Town)
Kick-off: 5pm (Live on SuperSport One)
UCT: 15 Dillyn Leyds, 14 Damian de Allende, 13 Tiger Bax, 12 Adrian Kritzinger, 11 Mark Winter, 10 Nick Holton, 9 Liam Slatem, 8 Rayn Smid, 7 Brad Bosman, 6 Ntsolo Setlaba (captain), 5 Levi Odendaal, 4 Graham Knoop, 3 Francois van Wyk, 2 Dayne Jans, 1 Wes Chetty.
Replacements: 16 Matt Page, 17 Digby Webb, 18 James Kilroe, 19 Greg Mallett, 20 Nick Farrar, 21 Paul Cohen, 22 Nathan Nel, 23 Mini Bhengu.
UP-Tuks: 15 Hayden Groepes, 14 Deon Helberg, 13 Jerome Pretorius, 12 Dabeon Draghoender, 11 Courtnal Skousan, 10 Willie du Plessis, 9 Lohan Jacobs, 8 Jono Janse van Rensburg, 7 Jacques Verwey, 6 Wiaan Liebenberg, 5 Nqubeko Zulu, 4 Mike Williams, 3 Grant Kemp, 2 Zane Botha (captain), 1 Vincent Koch.
Replacements: 16 Kurt Haupt, 17 Juan Schoeman, 18 Sthembiso Mlongo, 19 Lee Thompson, 20 Rudi van Rooyen, 21 Fanie Booysen, 22 Gerhardus Kotzee, 23 Basil Short.
FNB UJ vs. FNB Maties
UJ Stadium (Johannesburg)
Kick-off: 7pm (Live on SuperSport One)
UJ: 15 Worsie Kotze, 14 JR Esterhuizen, 13 Justin St. Jerry, 12 Divan van Zyl, 11 Chrysander Botha, 10 Guy Cronjé, 9 Rudy Paige, 8 Justin Wheeler (captain), 7 Wendal Wehr, 6 Johan van Deventer, 5 Sebastian de Chaves, 4 Shane Kirkwood, 3 Jaco Vermeulen, 2 Shaun Malton, 1 Heinrich Terblanche.
Replacements: 16 Francois du Toit, 17 Njabulo Mkize, 18 Marnus van Huyssteen, 19 RJ Liebenberg, 20 Jacques Pretorius, 21 Aubrey McDonald, 22 Luan Steenkamp, 23 Roche van der Westhuizen.
Maties: 15 André Smith, 14 Ryan Nell, 13 Wessel Coetzee, 12 Louis Jordaan, 11 Clearance Khumalo, 10 André Kemp, 9 Donald Stevens, 8 Grant Hattingh, 7 Helmut Lehmann (captain), 6 Sam Mabombo, 5 Hugo Kloppers, 4 Reniel Hugo, 3 Hein van der Merwe, 2 Alfred Ries, 1 Brummer Badenhorst.
Replacements: 16 Rob Herring, 17 Alistair Vermaak, 18 JP Swanepoel, 19 Nicholas de Jager, 20 Boela Abrahams, 21 Jarryd Buys, 22 Dean Hammand, 23 Os Hamman.
FNB NWU-Pukke vs. FNB Shimlas
Fanie du Toit Sports Grounds (Potchefstroom)
NWU-Pukke: 15 SW Oosthuizen, 14 Andrew van Wyk, 13 Ruan Jacobs, 12 Joubert Engelbrecht (captain), 11 Joe Seerane, 10 Gerhard Nortier, 9 Tiaan Dorfling, 8 HP Swart, 7 Philip de Wet, 6 Siya Mdaka, 5 Victor Kruger, 4 Siyanda Ndlovu, 3 John-Roy Jenkinson, 2 JC Oberholzer, 1 Henry Scharneck.
Replacements: 16 Marius Fourie, 17 Martin Dreyer, 18 Lodewyk Uys, 19 Spanner Pretorius, 20 Andries Botha, 21 Malan van der Merwe, 22 Terswin Raubenheimer, 23 Mashudu Mafela.
Shimlas: 15 Nico Scheepers, 14 Raymond Rhule, 13 Robbie van Schalkwyk, 12 Stephan van der Merwe, 11 Jamba Ulengo, 10 Franna du Toit, 9 Kevin Luiters, 8 Erik le Roux, 7 Willie Britz (captain), 6 Armandt Kotze, 5 JC Astle, 4 Joubert Horn, 3 Ian Potgieter, 2 PW van Vuuren, 1 Charles Marais.
Replacements: 16 JC van Wyk, 17 John-Henry Harris, 18 Lebo Zietsman, 19 Oupa Mohoje, 20 Pieter Rademan, 21 Reinhardt Erwee, 22 Divandré Strydom, 23 Carl van Heerden.
FNB TUT vs. FNB NMMU
TUT Stadium (Tshwane)
TUT: 15 Hagen Mumba, 14 Thabo Mangena, 13 Rikus de Beer, 12 Koos Kotze, 11 Ruan van Loo, 10 Hansie Graaff, 9 Manny Raposo, 8 Wikus Botes (captain), 7 Yves Basiya, 6 Tinus van Wyk, 5 Ewald Maree, 4 Gavin Engelbrecht, 3 Zandre Grobler, 2 Nathi Sethusi, 1 Dandre van der Westhuizen.
Replacements: 16 Juan Kotze, 17 Nico van den Heever, 18 Kapena Joel, 19 Vusi Mbonani, 20 Nico Smuts, 21 Melcolm Griffiths, 22 Quinton van Greunen, 23 Ryno van Rooyen.
NMMU: 15 Gerrit Smith, 14 Mayibuye 'Beast' Ndwandwa, 13 Quinton Crocker (vice-captain), 12 Howard Mnisi, 11 Eckard Jacobs, 10 Martin du Toit, 9 Anton Verster, 8 Jaco Swanepoel (captain), 7 André Goosen, 6 Ulrich Pretorius, 5 Mzwanele Zito, 4 Schalk Oelofse, 3 Dexter Fahey, 2 Martin Ferreira, 1 Roy Godfrey.
Replacements: 16 Kobus Greeff, 17 Gareth Hartley, 18 Timothy Agaba, 19 Thomasau Forbes, 20 Carl van Niekerk, 21 Bradley Kretzman, 22 Devon Lailvaux, 23 Phillip Nell.
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