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The road to the semi-finals

Updated: Apr 24, 2023

It all comes down to this – four teams battling out for the chance to advance to the final where the 2023 FNB Varsity Cup champion will be crowned.

What is certain is that there will be a new title holder as defending champions FNB UP-Tuks failed to make it past the round-robin matches after failing to win a single match. As a result, they’ve been relegated to FNB Varsity Shield for the first time in the competition’s history.

The semi-finals are taking place on Monday 10 April.

FNB UFS Shimlas host FNB UCT Ikeys in Bloemfontein (17:00) while FNB NWU Eagles take on FNB Maties in Potchefstroom (19:00). (Fixtures HERE)

Varsity Cup looks at how the teams progressed to the last four of this year’s tournament.

FNB UFS SHIMLAS

UFS are sure to take advantage of playing in front of their home crowd at Shimla Park in their efforts to add to the lone Varsity Cup title they won in 2015, beating NWU at the same venue. (Watch highlights HERE)

Shimlas finished second on the log, with five victories from their seven matches. They started their campaign, and what would turn out to be the most miserable of seasons for the defending champions, with a one-point victory over Tuks. (Watch highlights HERE)

The Free State team’s only two losses came against their semi-final opponents UCT Ikeys (12-29) and NWU Eagles (16-63), also in the last four. However, big wins over Bloemfontein neighbours FNB CUT (68-36) and former champions Maties (43-12)in the last couple of matches came at just the right time. (Watch highlights HERE and HERE)

Points for: 223 / Points against 220

Top points scorer: Lourens Oosthuizen – 24

Top try scorer: Kwezi Dlamini – 5

FNB UCT IKEYS

UCT have an impressive record coming into the semi-final of this year’s Varsity Cup. Two-time winners (2011 and 2014), Ikeys also played in the 2010 and 2021 finals, both times against UP-Tuks. They lost the most recent one by just seven points (27-34, watch highlights HERE).

It’s been a topsy-turvy season for UCT, winning four games that saw them claim the third spot on the log. After a narrow opening-round loss against Maties (19-21), they pounded on the hapless Tuks a week later with a comprehensive victory (42-19, watch highlights HERE).

Further losses against FNB UJ (24-43) and the Eagles (26-42) followed. Solid performance against semi-final opponents UFS Shimlas (29-12, watch highlights HERE) and last round against FNB CUT (79-31, watch highlights HERE) secured their place in the top four.

Points for: 265 / Points against 187

Top points scorer: NtokozaMakhaza – 95

Top try scorer: Duran Koevort – 4

FNB NWU EAGLES

NWU had the privilege to lift the coveted Varsity Cup trophy in 2016 when they beat their semi-final opponents Maties 7-6 (watch highlights HERE) in that year’s final. In total, these two teams have met in the final three times.

The Eagles finished top of the log, winning six of their seven matches. Playing in front of their home crowd in Potchefstroom, they beat UJ (41-28, watch highlights HERE) in round 1, and followed it up with a rugby lesson against Shimlas (63-16, watch highlights HERE).

A mid-season loss against their semi-final opponents (28-31) threw NWU slightly off track. They however pulled it back by beating UP-Tuks (26-22), CUT (45-28) and UCT Ikeys (42-26, watch highlights HERE) in the latter rounds.

Points for: 281 / Points against 154

Top points scorer: Zinedine Robinson – 60

Top try scorer: Vernon Paulo – 9

FNB MATIES

Maties will be looking to advance to an unprecedented 11th Varsity Cup final. They won the title between 2008 and 2010, and then again back-to-back in 2018 and 2019. In 2018 they beat their semi-final opponents NWU Eagles 40-7 (watch highlights HERE).

The Maroon Machine ended the round-robin stage with four victories from seven matches. They had to rely on a few favours from other teams to secure the fourth spot on the log and advance to the semis.

Maties had a few close calls in the first half of the competition, including against NWU Eagles (31-28, watch highlights HERE), FNB Wits (56-54) and UP-Tuks (46-35, watch highlightsHERE). Losses against CUT (19-23), UJ (42-49) and Shimlas (12-43) however nearly destroyed their chances of finishing in the top four.

Points for: 277 / Points against 252

Top points scorer: JurieMatthee – 78

Top try scorer: Waqar Solaan – 4

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