FNB Varsity Cup
The FNB UCT Ikeys and FNB Maties will go head-to-head on Monday as the tournament marks its 500th match.
Over the past 15 years, the South African rugby-loving public has made the FNB Varsity Cup a household name.
A truly proudly South African product, the premier intervarsity rugby competition has seen over 2,000 players come through the ranks and go on to play at higher levels, including 49 Springboks and 40 Blitzboks.
The platform that the FNB Varsity Cup offers is not, however, limited to just South African teams.
There will be more memories created on Monday, as fans can look forward to a few amazing unique matchday experiences to mark the 500th FNB Varsity Cup match celebration.
These include the credo being read by former FNB UCT Ikeys and Blitzboks star Kyle Brown, who along with Juan de Jongh will also be the strat masters for FNB UCT Ikeys and FNB Maties, respectively. De Jongh represented the Maroon Machine in the inaugural season.
Fans will be treated to some spectacular half-time entertainment performed by the Indoni Dance Arts and Leadership Academy. This performance promises to be upbeat and includes a rugby element in a contemporary style while the national anthem will be rendered by Bongeziwe Mabandla.
Since its inception in 2008, several former FNB Varsity Cup players have gone on to play for international sides, most recently Duhan van der Merwe.
The Scotland and former FNB UP-Tuks speedster was part of the British & Irish Lions team that played in a three-match Test series against the Springboks in 2021.
Van der Merwe shares the record for most tries (six) in a single FNB Varsity Cup match with Munster and former FNB Madibaz loose forward Chris Cloete.
The very first FNB Varsity Cup encounter took place at the very same UCT Rugby Fields where the 500th match will be played. The FNB UCT Ikeys hosted FNB NWU Pukke (now known as the FNB NWU Eagles), with the visitors winning 23-17.
The match featured the likes of Brown, JJ Gagiano, England Sevens player Matt Turner and Namibia international Theuns Kotzé. The visitors were coached by Matthew Proudfoot, who went on to win the World Cup with the Springboks as an assistant coach, while current Stormers head coach John Dobson headed up the coaching at FNB UCT Ikeys.
In interviews last year, both coaches said that the FNB Varsity Cup provided a platform that launched their coaching careers.
'The 2008 tournament remains the highlight of my coaching career,' Dobson said. 'Before the Varsity Cup, UCT had never seriously been on the rugby radar.
We had been part of the FNB Superbowl [which preceded the Varsity Cup] and embarrassed ourselves. We always felt that we had let down the rugby traditions of the university and the likes of [UCT Springboks] HO de Villiers, Peter Whipp, Nick Mallett and Cecil Moss. Winning the Varsity Cup in 2011 restored UCT’s pride.'
Proudfoot shared Dobson's sentiments.
'It was a huge privilege to coach FNB NWU-Pukke in the 2008 tournament. Other coaches that year included Chean Roux [FNB Maties] and John Dobson [FNB UCT Ikeys]. We knew the FNB Varsity Cup was going to have a massive impact on South African rugby.
As far as my coaching career is concerned, the FNB Varsity Cup gave me an opportunity as a young coach to be involved in a really tough, week-in, week-out competition that simulated professional rugby for a coach. The tournament was my baptism of fire.'
Adding to this momentous occasion of the 500th FNB Varsity Cup match, is that these two sides – FNB UCT Ikeys and FNB Maties – have met in two previous finals (2008 and 2010) with both played at the Danie Craven Stadium.
FNB Maties won both finals and have gone on to win the competition a record five times while FNB UCT Ikeys won the competition in 2011 and 2014.
Monday's match will kick off at 19:00 and be broadcast on SuperSport channel 211.