PREVIEW: 2021 FNB Varsity Cup semi-finals

FNB Varsity Cup

Fans can expect two epic battles when the FNB Varsity Cup semi-finals take place at Tuks Stadium on Friday.

The North-South derby has been played 22 times in the FNB Varsity Cup, including three at the semi-final stage of the tournament. The Maroon Machine won all three, by an average score of 45-23.

FNB Maties also won this year’s Round 4 clash between the teams, 31-24.

In 2021, the five-time champions have not met the high standards they set for themselves, suffering two losses against FNB UCT and FNB CUT during the league stage, but they showed what they are capable of by thrashing FNB UFS Shimlas in their previous outing to finish second on the log, ahead of Tuks.

"Reaching the semi-finals means we've stuck to our plan and it works,” says FNB Maties captain David Brits. “Friday’s match will be a different beast. If you want to be the best, you must beat the best, and Tuks in Pretoria is always a tough battle. Everyone is ready, so may the best team win.”

FNB Maties coach Drikus Hancke expects both sides to "bring a lot of intensity and passion" to the semi-final.

"And, like always, Tukkies will want to dominate the set-piece and dominate territory through a good kicking game," he added.

FNB UP-Tuks have been consistent in their style of play, which is similar to that of the Bulls and Springboks. They tend to switch gears in the second half and employ a quality bench that generally overpowers their opponents in the last quarter.

“We’ve put a lot of work into this campaign and we’re still only starting to reap the fruits of it,” says FNB UP-Tuks centre and captain Sango Xamlashe. “A lot of preparation has gone into the semi-final this week too and the boys are really excited about it.”

FNB UP-Tuks coach Nico Luus says FNB Maties have hit form at the right time.

“They played some brilliant rugby in the last bubble. They have a very good kicking game and very good forwards, so as a team we’re looking forward to proving ourselves against one of the best teams in the competition.”

FNB UP-Tuks flyhalf Zander du Plessis, who has attracted interest from professional clubs off the back of his performances in this year’s FNB Varsity Cup, is the tournament’s top point-scorer with 128 (see table below), while flank Eduan Lubbe has scored five tries.

FNB Maties hooker André-Hugo Venter has benefited from a strong forward display to cross the line six times, while flyhalf Christopher Schreuder is his team’s top point-scorer with 49.

FNB Maties – 15 Juan Mostert, 14 Munier Hartzenberg, 13 David Brits (c), 12 Taigh Schoor, 11 Siba Xamlashe, 10 Adriaan van der Bank, 9 Bobby Alexander, 8 Thys Kitshoff, 7 Gift Dlamini, 6 Mitchell Carstens, 5 Albert Liebenberg, 4 Simon Miller, 3 James Combrink, 2 HJ Luus, 1 Dian Bleuler.
Subs: 16 Abri Coetzee, 17 Leon Lyons, 18 Duncan du Buisson, 19 Marco van Rhyn, 20 Jesse Johnson, 21 Tomas Bursey, 22 Waqar Solaan, 23 Nevaldo Fleurs.

FNB UP-Tuks – 15 Zander du Plessis, 14 Stefan Coetzee, 13 Sango Xamlashe (c), 12 Louritz van der Schyff, 11 Tharquin Manuel, 10 David Coetzer, 9 Clyde Lewis, 8 Jaco Bezuidenhout, 7 Hanru Sirgel, 6 Eduan Lubbe, 5 Louis Meiring, 4 Mihlali Stamper, 3 Damien Swartz, 2 Werner Fourie, 1 Cebo Dlamini.
Subs: 16 Llewellyn Classen, 17 Dewald Donald, 18 Etienne Janeke, 19 Orateng Koikanyang, 20 Stephan Smit, 21 Johan Mulder, 22 Enrique Oranje, 23 Ambesa Zenzeli.

This will be the third FNB Varsity Cup semi-final meeting between the teams, with FNB UCT having won by a point in 2008 and FNB NWU by two points in 2009.

The Ikey Tigers beat the Eagles 42-36 in their Round 8 encounter this year, before going on to top the log for the first time since the inaugural FNB Varsity Cup in 2008. The Eagles snuck into the semi-finals after beating FNB CUT in their last league-stage fixture.

FNB UCT have been the trendsetters this season from the moment they ended FNB Maties’ 25-match unbeaten run in the opening round.

The Ikeys are ruthless on attack, as evident by the fact that they achieved seven try-scoring bonus points from the eight matches they played.

Fullback Athi Gazi and wing Rethabile Louw both crossed the whitewash on six occasions, while the Ikey Tigers' energy has been effectively directed by flyhalf James Tedder, who has scored 105 points.

FNB UCT will go into Friday’s semi-finals as favourites but will not underestimate their opponents.

"NWU have a big, physical side that will want to bully us,” says FNB UCT coach Tom Dawson-Squibb. “They have a very strong maul, which they have made good use of throughout the tournament, and some really talented players. You can see that they’re a resilient and tight-knit side, and they will provide us with a good challenge.”

Ikeys captain Liam Greenhalgh says reaching the semi-finals means a lot to his team considering what they have gone through.

“It’s a testament to all the hard work, dedication and sacrifices we've had to make as group since last September. It's been a helluva journey that we've thoroughly enjoyed and I think we are going to express how much it means to us by producing our best possible performance in the semi-final.”

Meanwhile, FNB NWU are happy to go into the playoffs as underdogs.

“We don't have any pressure on us,” says Eagles coach André Pretorius. “The pressure is firmly on UCT as they're expected to win the semi-final. That gives us the freedom to play and that's when we're the most dangerous.

“We’re expecting a fierce contest at the breakdown,” Pretorius added. “UCT have shown time and time again throughout this competition that they are very effective at the breakdown, so we need to be clinical there to nullify that threat. Their kicking game has also worked really well for them, so patience will be key for us.”

FNB NWU captain Lincoln Daniels says that having worked so hard to get into the semi-finals, his men aim to make the most of the opportunity.

"We want to show what we are capable of and see it as another chance to lift the Varsity Cup.”

Hooker Gustav du Rand and loose forward André Fouché have been stalwarts for the Eagles this season, with the former scoring eight tries, while flyhalf Keagan Fortune has contributed 62 points.

FNB UCT Ikeys – 15 Athi Gazi, 14 Rihaz Fredericks, 13 Evardi Boshoff, 12 Le Roux Malan, 11 Rethabile Louw, 10 David Hayes, 9 William Rose, 8 Christian Stehlik, 7 Niel Otto, 6 Liam Greenhalgh (c), 5 Gary Porter, 4 Byron Cranswick, 3 Robert Hunt, 2 Devon Arendse, 1 Luthando Woji.
Subs: 16 Josh van Vuuren, 17 Seth Christian, 18 Jovan Bekker, 19 Byron Bowes, 20 Taariq Kruger, 21 Kyle Bowman, 22 Sibabalwe Mzanywa, 23 Duran Koevort.    

FNB NWU Eagles – 15 Shane van Rooyen, 14 Sylvester Hassien, 13 Lincoln Daniels (c), 12 Marco Donges, 11 Keano Windvogel, 10 Nivan Petersen, 9 Riaan Genis, 8 Didintle Sekati, 7 Ruben Dreyer, 6 André Fouché, 5 Jeandré Leonard, 4 Malembe Mpofu, 3 Sampie Swiegers, 2 Gustav du Rand, 1 Ruben du Plessis. 
Subs: 16 Vernon Paulo, 17 Rehann Baumann, 18 Arno Gustafson, 19 George van der Westhuizen, 20 Jandré de Beer, 21 Caleb Louw, 22 Kagiso Woodbridge, 23 Pienaar van Niekerk.

READ: World’s first smart rugby ball to be used in FNB Varsity Cup playoffs

WHITE CARD EXPLAINED

A white card referral may be used by coaches and captains to review a decision made by a referee. Each team will be allowed one referral per half. If the team is successful in their referral, they will keep their referral. If they are unsuccessful, they will lose it.

The process will be as follows:

1. Each team will receive two cards marked ‘Half 1’ and ‘Half 2’. 

2. If the captain wants to refer an incident, he will request the referee to show a white card.

3. He has to be specific in his referral. No general referral will be allowed.

4. If the coach wants to refer an incident, he will request the TMO to inform the referee of the white card request. The referee will show the white card.

5. The coach will then convey his referral to the TMO and this must be specific.

6. The TMO will then inform the referee and producer and the normal procedures will prevail.

7. Once a half or the game finishes, each team will have 15 seconds to indicate if they want to use a white card referral.

READ: FNB Varsity Cup promotion/relegation 2021-2022

EXTRA TIME AND KICK-OUT EXPLAINED

If the scores are level after full-time, 20 minutes of extra time (10 minutes each way) will be played with a one-minute break. The teams will toss ahead of extra time.

If the scores are still level after extra time, a kick-out will be held.

For the kick-out, each team chooses five players out of the matchday 23, whether they have played in the match or not, to place-kick from a designated point on the field as instructed by the tournament director or referee. The teams will toss for kicking first.

If the score is still equal after the kick-out, it will continue on a sudden-death basis.

The same five players will kick again in the same sequence that was used in the first round of the kick-out.

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2021 FNB VARSITY CUP TOP POINT-SCORERS

Pos

Name

Team

Points

1

Zander du Plessis

FNB UP-Tuks

128

2

James Tedder

FNB UCT Ikeys

105

3

JP Duvenage

FNB UFS Shimlas

73

4

Charles Williams

FNB CUT Ixias

71

5

Jurich Claasens

FNB UJ

64

6

Keagan Fortune

FNB NWU Eagles

62

7

Branden de Kock

FNB UWC

60

8

Janus Venter

FNB CUT Ixias

60

9

Christopher Schreuder

FNB Maties

49

10

Gustav du Rand

FNB NWU Eagles

40

2021 FNB VARSITY CUP TOP TRY-SCORERS

Pos

Name

Team

Points

1

Janus Venter

FNB CUT Ixias

12

2

Gustav du Rand

FNB NWU Eagles

8

3

Cohen Jasper

FNB CUT Ixias

7

4

Tinotenda Mavesere

FNB UWC

7

5

Athi Gazi

FNB UCT Ikeys

6

6

Rethabile Louw

FNB UCT Ikeys

6

7

André-Hugo Venter

FNB Maties

6

8

Devon Arendse

FNB UCT Ikeys

5

9

Thembekile Boltina

FNB Madibaz

5

10

Eduan Lubbe

FNB UP-Tuks

5