Varsity Cup preview: semi-finals
The Varsity Cup tournament reaches the business-end on Monday with two big semi-finals in Stellenbosch and Pretoria.
The unbeaten Maties will welcome the NMMU Madibaz to the Danie Craven Stadium in Stellenbosch, and in Pretoria defending champions UP-Tuks will take on UJ in a trans-Jukskei derby.
If the corresponding fixtures between those teams earlier in the season are anything to go by, then we should be in for two thrilling knock-out clashes.
The Madibaz have been the Cinderella story of this year's Varsity Cup after scraping into the semi-finals for the first time in their history on points difference, and they will be keen to take down the three-time champions who needed a late try to edge them 13-8 in Stellenbosch back in Round Three.
Madibaz coach Brent Janse van Rensburg has called on his team to give absolutely everything in their quest to upset Maties in front of their home crowd and progress to their first final.
"We need to be better than them on the night and be prepared both mentally and physically," he said.
"All our focus now must be directed at the Maties. We are now in with a chance and we will certainly appreciate the great opportunity on Monday night.
"We came very close the last time we played Maties during the round robin in Stellenbosch and we very much look forward to the challenge."
UP-Tuks needed a last-minute try to secure a nailbiting 34-29 victory over UJ in Round Six, and they will be determined to make it a double against the Johannesburg outfit that needed two late tries against UFS-Shimlas last week to secure their semi-final berth.
Although they went down to NMMU in Port Elizabeth last week, the powerful UP-Tuks side are a different proposition on home turf, and UJ will have to be on top of their game if they want revenge for that heartbreaking loss two weeks ago.
The Varsity Young Guns and Koshuisrugby Championships also enter the semifinal stage, making Monday a feast of knock-out student rugby.
Both Young Guns semi-finals will be curtain-raisers to the Varsity Cup semi-finals, with defending champions UP-Tuks taking on UCT at the Tuks Rugby Stadium in Pretoria and Maties squaring off with UFS-Shimlas at the Danie Craven Stadium in Stellenbosch.
In the Koshuisrugby semifinals defending champions Vishuis will face Maties side Medies in Bloemfontein and both teams will be looking to bounce back from narrow losses last week.
Villagers from NWU-Pukke are the only unbeaten team in the competition, and they will be keen to continue that streak when they welcome UJ outfit Bastion to Potchefstroom.
The Varsity Shield enters the final round, and while the unbeaten CUT Ixias have already ensured that they will host the final in Bloemfontein next week, their opposition will be decided in the clash between UWC and Fort Hare in Bellville.
Peter de Villiers' UWC side currently lead the Fort Hare Blues by two log points heading into their do-or-die encounter, with both teams eyeing their first-ever final.
UWC can qualify for the final with two bonus points, while for Fort Hare it will be about going all-out for a victory by more than seven points which would see them leapfrog both UKZN and UWC.
The Ixias will be keen to make it eight wins out of eight games and take some valuable momentum into the final when they take on TUT who are set to claim the wooden spoon in their first season of Varsity Shield no matter the result.
Varsity Cup semi-final fixtures and team line-ups:
UP-Tuks v UJ, Tuks Rugby Stadium - 4.30pm (Live on TV)
UP-Tuks: 15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Vainon Willis, 13 Piet Lindeque, 12 Handre Pollard, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Willie du Plessis, 9 Danie Faasen, 8 Jono Ross (captain), 7 Jacques Verwey, 6 Shaun Adendorff, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Mike Williams, 3 Basil Short, 2 Mbongeni Mbonambi, 1 Juan Schoeman.
Replacements: 16 Jaco Visagie, 17 Sabelo Nhlapo, 18 Schalk Van Heerden, 19 JP Mostert, 20 Emile Temperman, 21 Christopher Bosch, 22 Riaan Britz, 23 Christoff Gouws.
UJ: 15 Kobus De Kock, 14 JR Esterhuizen, 13 Bradley Moolman, 12 Luan Steenkamp, 11 Chrysander Botha, 10 Divan van Zyl (captainj), 9 Jacques Pretorius, 8 RJ Liebenberg, 7 Johan van der Hoogt, 6 Thilip Marole, 5 David Antonites, 4 Shane Kirkwood, 3 Ewald Van Der Westhuizen, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Wessel Du Randt .
Replacements: 16 AJ le Roux, 17 Wiseman Kamanga, 18 Fabian Booysen, 19 Kobus Porter, 20 Vian van der Watt, 21 Guy Cronje, 22 Andries Oosthuizen, 23 Njabulo Mkize.
Referee: Tiaan Jonker
Assistant referees: Jaco Kotze, Lihan Pretorius
TMO: Johan Greeff
Maties v NMMU, Danie Craven Stadium - 7pm (Live on TV)
Maties: 15 Craig Barry, 14 Clearance Khumalo, 13 Mark Hodgkiss, 12 Ryan Nell, 11 Dean Hammond, 10 JH Potgieter, 9 James Alexander, 8 Reniel Hugo, 7 Lungelo Chonco, 6 Helmut Lehmann (captain), 5 Wilhelm van der Sluys, 4 Jan de Klerk, 3 Os Hamman, 2 Charl de Villiers, 1 Alister Vermaak.
Replacements: 16 Frederik Kirsten, 17 Hein van der Merwe, 18 Jurie van Vuuren, 19 Beyers de Villiers, 20 Jean Nel, 21 Dean Grant, 22 JP Lewis, 23 Brendan Pitzer.
NMMU: 15 Jarred Buys, 14 Mayibuye Ndwandwe, 13 Devon Lailvaux, 12 Xolani Mnisi, 11 Gerhardus Smith, 10 Justin Van Staden, 9 Dwayne Kelly, 8 Timothy Agaba, 7 Stefan Willemse, 6 Albertus de Swardt, 5 Mzwanale Zito, 4 Schalk Oelofse, 3 Gareth Hartley, 2 Martin Ferreira, 1 Roy Godfrey (captain).
Replacements: 16 Francois Coetzer, 17 Dexter Fahey, 18 Louis Fourie, 19 Ulrich Pretorius, 20 Simphiwe Shabangu, 21 Lesley-Dean Luiters, 22 Logan Basson, 23 Lizo Gqoboka.
Referee: Ben Crouse
Assistant referees: Lusanda Jam, Daniel Fortuin
TMO: Shaun Veldsman
Varsity Shield fixtures:
CUT v TUT, CUT Rugby Stadium - 7pm
UWC v UFH, UWC Sport Stadium - 7pm
Koshuisrugby Championship fixtures:
Vishuis (UFS-Shimlas) v Medies(Maties), Shimla Park - 5pm
Villagers (Nwu-Pukke) v Bastion (UJ), Fanie Du Toit Sports Grounds - 7pm
Varsity Young Guns:
UP Tuks v UCT, Tuks Rugby Stadium - 2pm
Maties v UFS-Shimlas , Danie Craven Stadium - 4.30pm