FNB NWU-Pukke lead the way after claiming bonus-point victories in both their matches, and they will host a desperate FNB Maties side that have just a single bonus point to show for their efforts so far this season.
The three-time champions are coming off a demoralising defeat to Cape rivals FNB UCT in front of their home crowd in Stellenbosch and now face a tough follow-up assignment against the well-drilled NWU-Pukke outfit in Potchefstroom.
That victory over their old foes has given the Ikeys plenty of heart, but they will also have their work cut out for them when they travel to Port Elizabeth to try and win the Monte Taljaard trophy back from FNB NMMU.
The Madibaz’s dramatic victory over FNB UJ last week has them sitting just one point adrift of log-leaders NWU-Pukke, so they will be confident of being able to keep the trophy for one more year.
The Monte Taljaard Trophy is played in honour of UCT First XV flank and Grey PE rugby star Monte Taljaard, who tragically passed away in a car accident in September 2008.
The Madibaz lifted the trophy for the first time in 2012, winning in dramatic circumstances, with UCT having – up till then – never lost to NMMU in the history of the Varsity Cup, and the teams drew 5-5 on a windswept Green Mile last year which saw the trophy stay in Port Elizabeth.
Defending champions FNB UP-Tuks are the only other team yet to lose a game this season, following up their draw against UJ with a ruthless demolition of FNB Wits last week, but they face a somewhat trickier hurdle in the form of FNB UFS-Shimlas this week.
UP-Tuks coach Pote Human has named an unchanged side from the combination that put Wits to the sword last week, but they should face a fiercer test from a UFS-Shimlas team that managed to score four tries despite going down to NWU-Pukke last week.
UFS-Shimlas captain Elandre Huggett has been ruled out for the rest of the competition due to injury, and new skipper Joubert Engelbrecht faces a demanding first outing in charge in a game that will be televised live on Supersport One from Pretoria.
The early televised match will see UJ and Wits both looking for their first victory of the season in the Johannesburg derby. Having drawn one match before losing the other in the final movement of the game, UJ will be looking for an emphatic performance to get their campaign up and running properly.
Wits are still looking for their first win in the competition, and coach Andy Royle has called for them to put the heavy defeat to UP-Tuks behind them and focus on upsetting their neighbours.
In the Varsity Shield former international coaches Peter de Villiers and John Mitchell will go head-to-head in the clash between FNB UWC and FNB UKZN in Bellville, whilst in Pretoria FNB TUT and FNB CUT will both be bidding to maintain their unbeaten records.
Mithcell’s UKZN Impi are the only team that is yet to have won a game this season, and De Villiers’ UWC are coming off consecutive defeats themselves so it should be a hard-fought clash as both teams seek to avoid falling off the pace set by the likes of the TUT Vikings and CUT Ixias.
After the opening round last week the FNB Varsity Young Guns competition continues, with defending champions UP-Tuks looking to add to their resounding 137-2 victory over Wits when they take on the ever-competitive UFS Young Guns side in a curtain-raiser to the Varsity Cup game.
The early match in Port Elizabeth will see both NMMU and the UCT Young Guns look to bounce back from defeats in the opening round last week.
The Steinhoff Koshuisrugby Championship starts on Monday, with on match in each of the pools sponsored by Hertz and Hi-Fi Corporation. Steinhoff Majuba from UJ will host local rivals Steinhoff Humanities from Wits and in Port Elizabeth it will be NMMU side Steinhoff Oppidani up against Steinhoff Medies from Maties.
FNB UJ v FNB Wits
(UJ Stadium, Johannesburg – Kick-off: 16.45 live on Supersport One)
FNB UJ: 15 Marais Schmidt, 14 PJ Walters, 13 Jacques Nel, 12 Harold Vorster, 11 Michael Haznar, 10 Jaco van der Walt, 9 Jacques Pretorius (captain), 8 Rhynaard van Wyk, 7 Dylan Peterson, 6 Tiaan MacDonald, 5 David Antonites, 4 Jeremy Jordaan, 3 Van Zyl Botha, 2 Francois du Toit, 1 Wiseman Kamanga.
Replacements: 16 Jannes Snyman, 17 Devon Martinus, 18 Shane Kirkwood, 19 Victor Sekekete, 20 Lukas van Zyl, 21 Juan Kotze, 22 Peter Morton, 23 Hendrik Bredenkamp.
FNB Wits: 15 Ruhan Nel, 14 Jacques Erasmus, 13 Nkuli Gamede, 12 Mandla Dube, 11 Joshua Jarvis, 10 Ashlon Davids, 9 Mathew Torrance, 8 Senna Esterhuizen, 7 J.P. Jonck, 6 Peter van Biljon, 5 Rendani Ramovha, 4 Devin Montgomery (captain), 3 Gideon Muller, 2 Ashley Kohler, 1 Hannes Ludick.
Replacements: 16 James Marx, 17 Kyle Wood, 18 Conor Brockschmidt, 19 Thato Mavundla, 20 Divan Ferguson, 21 Ish Nkolo, 22 Jason Fraser, 23 Kelly Ferdinand.
Referees: Stephan Geldenhuys, Eduan Nel
TMO: Johan Greeff
FNB UP-Tuks v FNB UFS-Shimlas
(Tuks Rugby Stadium, Pretoria – Kick-off: 19.00 live on Supersport One)
FNB UP-Tuks: 15 Warrick Gelant; 14 Jade Stighling, 13 Dries Swanepoel, 12 Ryan Nell, 11 Kefentse Mahlo; 10 Tian Schoeman, 9 Carlo Engelbrecht; 8 Rudolph Smith, 7 Wiaan Liebenberg, 6 Roelof Smit, 5 Reniel Hugo (captain), 4 Dennis Visser, 3 Basil Short, 2 Sidney Tobias, 1 Juan Schoeman.
Replacements: 16 Corniel Els; 17 Brummer Badenhorst, 18 Jannes Kirsten, 19 Leneve Damens, 20 Emile Temperman; 22 Francois Tredoux, 22 Jacques Rossouw, 23 Andrew Beerwinkel.
FNB UFS-Shimlas: 15 AJ Coertzen, 14 Mapuhta Dolo, 13 Robbie van Schalkwyk, 12 Joubert Engelbrecht (captain), 11 Sethu Tom, 10 Gouws Prinsloo, 9 Kevin Luiters, 8 Neill Jordaan, 7 Oupa Mohoje, 6 Tienie Burger, 5 Neil Claassen, 4 Armandt Koster, 3 Nick Schonert, 2 Jacques du Toit, 1 Rudolf Botha.
Replacements: 16 Gideon Bruwer, 17 Franco van der Merwe, 18 Fanie van der Walt, 19 Johan van der Hoogt, 20 Kay-Kay Hlongwane, 21 Pieter-Steyn de Wet, 22 Divandré Strydom, 23 Justin Pappin.
Referees: Tahla Ntshakaza, Gerrie de Bruin
TMO: Willie Roos
FNB NWU-Pukke v FNB Maties
(Fanie du Toit Stadium, Potchefstroom – Kick-off: 19.00)
FNB Maties: 15 Craig Barry, 14 Clearance Khumalo, 13 Mark Hodgskiss, 12 Johnny Kôtze, 11 Caleb Smith, 10 Robert du Preez, 9 Jean Nel, 8 Tertius Daniller (captain), 7 Helmut Lehmann, 6 Beyers de Villiers, 5 Wilhelm van der Sluys, 4 Jan de Klerk, 3 Nicol Heyns, 2 Freddie Kirsten, 1 Niel Oelofse.
Replacements: 16 Charl de Villiers, 17 Wesley Adonis, 18 Renier Ehlers, 19 Lungelo Chonco, 20 Louis Nel, 21 Chris Smith, 22 Louis Jordaan, 23 Liam Hendricks.
FNB NWU-Pukke: 15 Rhyno SMith, 14 Edmar Marais, 13 Sylvain Mahuza, 12 Adriaan Engelbrecht, 11 Luther Obi, 10 Johnny Welthagen, 9 Tiaan Dorfling (captain), 8 Rhyk Welgemoed, 7 Henro-Pierre Swart, 6 Robey Labuschagne, 5 Francois Robbertse, 4 Peet van der Walt, 3 Elardus Venter, 2 Armand van der Merwe, 1 Johan Smith.
Replacements: 16 Jacques Vermaak, 17 Mashudu Malefa, 18 Daniel Jordaan, 19 Juan Language, 20 Dillon Smit, 21 Johan Deysel, 22 Lucian Cupido, 23 Lhlanhla Ngoama.
Referees: Christie du Preez, Lesego Legoete
FNB NMMU v FNB UCT
(Madibaz Stadium, Port Elizabeth – Kick-off: 19.00)
FNB NMMU Madibaz: 15 Donovan Marais, 14 Tythan Adams, 13 Michael Bernardt, 12 Andile Jho, 11 Yamkela Ngam, 10 Gavin Hauptfleisch, 9 Daniel Acker, 8 Timothy Agaba, 7 Wade Elliot, 6 Christopher Cloete, 5 Louis Fourie, 4 Stefan Willemse, 3 Simon Kerrod, 2 Martin Ferreira, 1 Roy Godfrey (captain).
Replacements: 16 Jody Reyneke, 17 Abongile Mnyaka, 18 Matthew Tweedle, 19 Andre Barnard, 20 Ivan Ludick, 21 Stefanus Booysen, 22 Ayabula Dlepu, 23 Marzuq Maarman.
FNB UCT: 15 Martin Sauls, 14 Richard Stewart, 13 Huw Jones, 12 Nic Holton, 11 Lihleli Xoli, 10 Dean Grant, 9 Liam Slatem (captain), 8 Guy Alexander, 7 Shaun McDonald, 6 Jason Klaasen, 5 James Kilroe, 4 Jan Uys, 3 Digby Webb, 2 Chad Soloman, 1 Joel Carew.
Replacements: 16 Neil Rautenbach, 17 Michael Kennedy, 18 GVince Jobo, 19 Zakeyo Tinetenda, 20 James Alexander, 21 Ross Jones-Davies, 22 Suwilanji Chibale, 23 David Maasch.
Referees: Francois Pretorius, Rodney Bonaparte