The 2023 FNB Varsity Shield kicked off just over six weeks ago on 16 February with eight teams competing in the country’s toughest university rugby competition. Now, 28 games later, only four remain in the running.
The semi-finals are taking place on Thursday 6 April. FNB Madibaz hosts FNB CPUT in Gqeberha (17:00) while FNB UWC takes on defending champions FNB UFH in Cape Town (19:00).
Varsity Cup takes a look at how the four teams progressed to the last four of this year’s tournament.
Finalists in 2013 and 2016 and back-to-back champions in 2017 and 2018, UWC will undoubtedly want to add a third title before they move up to the FNB Varsity Cup in 2024.
The Capetonians went through the season unbeaten and finished top of the log with 35 points, including 7 bonus points for scoring four tries or more in each of their games.
UWC’s biggest victory came in the first round when they thrashed FNB Rhodes 87-5 (Watch highlights HERE). They comfortably beat the rest of the opposition, with the 45-31 victory over Madibaz the closest (watch highlights HERE).
Points for: 319 / Points against 82
Top points scorer: Conwill Conradie – 70
Top try scorer: Mauritz Swart – 8
Madibaz has a score to settle with their semi-final opponents CPUT as it is the same team who prevented them from lifting the trophy in the 2019 final.
The Eastern Cape side played in the Varsity Cup in 2021 and 2022 but got relegated back to the Shield last year. They have a chance of moving back up again by their second-placed finish on the log and will now play FNB CUT, who finished 7th on the FNB Varsity Cup log, to make that happen.
Madibaz had a slow and steady start to this year’s tournament, with a couple of close victories over FNB TUT and FNB UKZN. The 24-6 result over defending champions UFH last week, came at just the right time as they hit their stride (watch highlights HERE).
They finished second on the log with 28 points, including 8 bonus points, the most of any team.
Points for: 257 / Points against 165
Top points scorer: Kehan Myburgh – 46
Top try scorer: Keaton Olivier – 5
If UWC has been the one to watch this year, CPUT has undoubtedly been ruling the competition for the last couple of years, advancing to four finals.
They lifted the trophy in 2019, got interrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 and then did so again in 2021. They got agonisingly close last year when they lost by one point to UFH in the final.
CPUT secured a third-place log position, thanks to five victories out of their seven matches. One of their losses came against arch-nemesis UWC. They left their biggest victory for the last round, a 76-5 mauling over hapless Rhodes (watch highlights HERE).
Points for: 261 / Points against 141
Top points scorer: Linton Maritz – 40
Top try scorer: Heinrico Hartogh – 5
UFH will want to show that winning the 2022 competition was not a once-off occurrence. It’s going to be a tough task though against unbeaten UWC, the same team they lost to in the 2017 final.
The defending champions only secured their place in the semi-finals with a 37-24 victory over TUT in the last match of this year’s tournament (watch highlights HERE). It pushed them past the Pretoria team to fourth on the log with 19 points.
It’s been a bumpy road to the final four that started with a one-point victory over FNB WSU, followed by losses against UWC and CPUT. UFH then got their campaign back on track, beating Rhodes 45-0 in round 4 (watch highlights HERE).
Points for: 167 / Points against 133
Top points scorer: Merlin du Plessis – 72
Top try scorer: Ayabulela Xhosana – 5