FNB Varsity Cup
VarsityCup.co.za chats to the respective coaches about their teams’ prospects of qualifying for the FNB Varsity Cup playoffs.
FNB UFS SHIMLAS
Log position: 1st
Remaining fixtures: FNB UP-Tuks (home), FNB Madibaz (away)
What they need to do: FNB UFS Shimlas are well placed to qualify for the semi-finals, given that one of their last two fixtures is against the battling FNB Madibaz, who have won one match to date. If they beat FNB UP-Tuks at home – and then go on to down the FNB Madibaz in Gqeberha – they should be in a position to host a semi-final.
Director of rugby Swys de Bruin: ‘We are not looking as far ahead as the semi-finals, as we have Tuks next week and we are focused on that challenge. We scored five tries against UJ last week to boost our season tally to 44, and our goal is to score more tries and to play entertaining rugby.’
FNB UCT IKEYS
Log position: 2nd
Remaining fixtures: FNB Wits (away), FNB CUT Ixias (home)
What they need to do: The Ikey Tigers should be looking to secure a home semi-final over the next two weeks. Their next fixture will be a challenging one, given that FNB Wits are still fighting for a place in the final four. They will be big favourites to collect five log points from their home game the FNB CUT Ixias, who are in the running for the wooden spoon.
Coach Tom Dawson-Squibb: ‘It's such a cliché, but we are taking it game by game. We are not looking at the semi-finals just yet. I am not going to change up for next week. I want to see if we can beat Wits with this team. We need to improve our attacking breakdowns and fix our lineouts.’
Log position: 3rd
Remaining fixtures: FNB UFS Shimlas (away), FNB UJ (away)
What they need to do: The pressure is on FNB UP-Tuks to deliver two wins in the last two matches of the league phase. They will go into the away match against FNB UFS Shimlas as underdogs, and may be hard-pressed to claim any log points. At the very least, they should be targeting a big win against FNB UJ thereafter. That may be enough to earn them a playoff place, but they will have to travel in the semis.
Coach Nico Luus: ‘I’m not even thinking about the semis, I’m thinking about next week when we play Shimlas away. The race for the semi-finals is still wide open. That’s why it was so important to get a win against Wits this past week. Our execution was a lot better, but our discipline was not great. It is something we can work on.’
Log position: 4th
Remaining fixtures: FNB Madibaz (home), FNB UWC (home)
What they need to do: If not for their recent loss to the Ikey Tigers, FNB Maties would be well placed to top the log and host a semi-final. They’re still in a strong position, though, given that their last two fixtures are against two of the weakest sides in the tournament, and will both be staged in Stellenbosch. They should claim 10 log points from those games, but they may need one or two other results to go their way – such as an upset win for FNB Wits over FNB UCT – in order to finish the league stage in the top two.
FNB Maties coach Norman Jordaan was not available for comment
Log position: 5th
Remaining fixtures: FNB UCT Ikeys (home), FNB NWU Eagles (away)
What they need to do: No other team faces a tougher road to qualification. After hosting last year’s finalists, they will travel to Potch to face an FNB NWU side that is peaking at the right time. It would be unwise to write them off, though. If they beat the Ikey Tigers, they will travel into their final fixture with the belief that they can ground the Eagles and book a place in the semis. That said, they may still need a few other results to go their way in order to advance.
Coach Hugo van As: ‘Our destiny in this tournament is still in our own hands. We have two games to play, and a lot can still happen with quite a few teams vying for a playoff place. From our side, we’ve got to make sure that we win our final two matches. This team will keep on fighting until the final minute of the campaign.’
FNB NWU EAGLES
Log position: 6th
Remaining fixtures: FNB CUT Ixias (away), FNB Wits (home)
What they need to do: The Eagles have built some momentum in the latter stages of the competition. The big question is whether they’ve left their push for a semi-final spot too late. They need five points from their next clash against the FNB CUT Ixias, as well as a big win against an equally desperate FNB Wits side at home. Even that may not be enough to earn them a place in the playoffs. They need a couple of the better-placed teams to stumble over the next two rounds.
Coach André Pretorius: ‘We have to think carefully about the next game. The semi-final spots are still available for a lot of teams, and we need to get our combinations right for our upcoming fixtures so that the team can be in a much better place to qualify.’
Log position: 7th
Remaining fixtures: FNB UWC (away), FNB UP-Tuks (home)
What they need to do: Can FNB UJ claim a full house of log points in both of their remaining matches? They may fancy their chances against FNB UWC, even though the students from the Cape will be scrapping hard to avoid relegation. It’s a bigger ask to score a bonus-point win against the reigning champions, though – and FNB UP-Tuks boast one of the best defences in the tournament. If FNB UJ do achieve their objective, they will still need a few results to go their way.
Coach Jonathan Mokuena: ‘We’re still in with a shot – if we win with five points next Monday. Last week’s loss against Shimlas has made things a little difficult for us, because until that game, our destiny was in our own hands.’
Photos: Catherine Kotze, Hannes Naude, Barco Greeff/Luigi Bennett/Asem Engage