The current FNB Varsity Cup champions, FNB UP-Tuks, have enjoyed their holiday and are back in full training with defending their title being their highest priority.
FNB UP-Tuks will play two warm-up matches against FNB CUT (12 January, Kroonstad) and FNB NWU (17 January, Potchefstroom) as they look to iron out the kinks ahead of their 2018 FNB Varsity Cup opening match against FNB UFS-Shimlas on Monday, 29 January at the Tuks Rugby Stadium. Kick-off 16:45.
FNB UP-Tuks will be coached by David Manuel and while his position has changed he is by no means new to the University of Pretoria's Varsity Cup structures as he been involved since 2011 and he feels that it is this experience that will help him in his new role as head coach.
"My time in the UP-Tuks structures can best be described as a safe place to learn. I assisted very good coaches and learnt a lot while developing my own philosophy," said Manuel.
The 11th edition of the FNB Varsity Cup will see a new law innovation where teams will have the option of using a Power Play which will allow a team to remove any two nominated backline players from the opposition for a period of three minutes of playing time.
The Power Play can only be called by a team while in their own half, must be called by the captain and can only be called once. If the team whose players have been removed score a try during the Power Play period, they will be awarded an extra two points (seven points before the conversion).
Manuel admits that at first he was hesitant about the law innovation but it has since grown on him.
"To be honest, many coaches were unsettled by the idea of losing players during a match but after Varsity Cup explained the reason behind it, we all got onboard and I'm personally looking forward to implementing it and defending against it especially during our warm-up matches," he said.
Personal development of players and management is of critical importance to Manuel and he wants to start implementing this from the get-go.
"A major discussion point we had as a group is that we all need to improve because if the individual improves so shall the team. We are fortunate to have the vast majority of the 2017 squad back this year while the new players are excited to get stuck in. We are focused on going from match to match with our current attention solely on the two warm-ups," explained Manuel.