Defending champions UP-Tuks could rewrite the FNB Varsity Cup records books should they be victorious in the final on 17 April 2023.
It would be the third consecutive time Tuks will claim the title. Only Maties (2008-2010) has been able to do so. It would be Tuks's sixth title. As things stand, Tuks and Maties have both been victorious on five occasions.
Tuks's captain, Lincoln Daniels, is also in line to make Varsity Cup history. He captained "the men in Stripes" to win last year. Varsity Cup statistics are hard to come by, but it seems as if no same captain has been able to lead a team to win twice in a row.
Daniels, a veteran of Varsity Cup rugby, is not one to get ahead of himself.
"Records always make for exciting reading. But it would not be smart to think about playing the Varsity Cup final at this stage. Our approach will be to take it one game at a time. Our first encounter is against Shimlas (20 February). It is going to be a tough one. Things are going to get any easier," said Daniels, who made his Varsity Cup debut in 2019.
According to Daniels, Tuks has lost seven key players. "In the backline, it is Stefan Coetzee (fullback), Kabelo Mokoena (wing) and Bernard van der Linde (scrumhalf). Amongst the forwards, it is Orateng Koikanyang (eight-man) and Stephan Smit (flanker), Mihlali Stamper (lock) and Francois Klopper (tighthead).
"They will be missed, especially the forwards. They were our enforcers last year. The newcomers literally have 'big shoes' to fill, but I am confident they will step up. There is something to be said about playing for Tuks. Once you don the coveted 'Striped jersey,' it is as if you cannot help but try and play to the best of your ability."
From an absolute high, winning the Varsity Cup, to an absolute low is the best way to summarise Daniel's season last year.
"I tore a ligament in my foot in the very first Carlton Cup game I played. That was it. My season was done. I have not played a game in the last seven months. Apparently, rehabilitation can't be rushed when you tore a ligament in your foot.
"I tried to make the most of the time from the field. I worked to get physically stronger with Naat Loubser's (fitness and conditioning coach) help. I even bulked up a bit. I weigh about three kilograms more than I did last year. The challenge is now to get match fit. I can't wait to play." As to his role, as captain Daniels said, he tends to lead by example as he is somewhat of an introvert. In other words, a man of few words.
FNB Varsity Cup 2023 FIXTURES HERE.
Photo credit: Reg Caldecott