FNB Varsity Cup
The youthful FNB Ikey Tigers squad took some valuable experience from the recent USSA championships in Grahamstown according to wing Lihleli Xoli.
The reigning FNB Varsity Cup presented by Steinhoff International champions ended in sixth place in the 'A' section of the national tournament after winning one of their three games, and Xoli said that it had been an important stepping stone for the youthful squad.
=Day One kicked off with a local derby, the Tigers taking on fellow Cape side FNB Maties. The game was a hard-fought affair which UCT narrowly lost 32-33. Each side gave it their all, but the Tigers missed out on the win with a missed penalty kick late in the second half.
Speaking about the impact the initial loss had on the rest of the games, Xoli said: "I think it allowed a lot of the younger players to learn going forward in the tournament. The loss on the first day gave the team a chance to change around and experiment with different combinations thereafter."
And change things around they did. The Tigers bounced back on the second day of the tournament with a 29-24 over NMMU. While the Madibaz did their best to overcome the reigning Varsity Cup champions, it wasn't enough and UCT snatched the win.
While expected to carry forward that momentum the next day, the team finished up their performance at the games with a 19-22 loss against FNB UFS-Shimlas. When asked about what he believes went wrong in the match, Xoli said 'we ran out of time'. With the win, the Shimlas took fifth place overall, coming in just behind the Maties.
Third place went to FNB NWU-Pukke, who managed to beat Stellenbosch on the last day 17-10. The ultimate prize was taken away by FNB UP-Tuks, who beat-out defending champions FNB UJ 37-29 on the final day.
Speaking about the fact that UCT put up a squad containing a lot of younger players, and the benefits of this, Xoli said: "Obviously the younger players brought in hunger and drive to want to prove their worth and stake their claim for next year’s squad."
And lastly, giving his opinion on the overall value of a tournament of this nature, he said: "I think it’s a good tournament to bleed youngsters in, and it’s good to have those players who perhaps missed out of Varsity Cup to get their chance at a competitive level.
"Also, there are other teams that play each other who otherwise wouldn’t have an opportunity to do so in their routine leagues," he went on.
The Ikey Tigers now have a small break before they begin preparations for the second half of the WP Super League, their first game of which is on July 26.