The CUT Ixias will host the UKZN Impi in the Varsity Shield Final in Bloemfontein on Monday, with promotion to the Varsity Cup on the line.
It will be the Impi’s first appearance in a Varsity Shield Final, and they will have their work cut out for them against the Ixias who have played in all three finals since the competition began in 2011.
The two-time champions were denied promotion to the Varsity Cup in 2012 when Wits beat them on home turf, so it will be a case of unfinished business when they face former All Blacks coach John Mitchell’s team.
Wits will play in the Varsity Shield again next year after going winless in their two seasons in the Varsity Cup, whilst the team that loses on Monday will play a promotion/relegation play-off against UJ who finished seventh in the Varsity Cup this year.
UKZN secured their spot in the Final by beating CUT 39-21 in Pietermaritzburg last week, which has prompted Ixias coach Johannes Bester to label the KwaZulu-Natal side as favourites for the Final.
“I think they should now be the favourites to win this, so it’s going to be a tough one,” he said.
Bester added that whilst his team was off the pace last week they were beaten by the better team on the day, and have no illusions about the challenge that lies ahead.
“Yes, the guys didn’t show up mentally but apart from that they played well, so we know what we’re in for.
“Game’s don’t get much bigger than this for us and it’s on our home turf, so we can’t lose this, we cannot lose this another time,” he said.
Impi coach John Mitchell said that the key for his team will be to stick to what has worked for them this season.
“We have given ourselves an opportunity now, it is a new situation altogether but it is actually about sticking to the same processes, getting our preparation right and bringing our performances,” he explained.
The experienced Mitchell has plenty of respect for CUT, who went unbeaten to take the title last year.
“Clearly they set the benchmark in the competition, they were certainly ahead of us at the start of the competition and we have had to get better like all teams.
“They are very urgent, they like to move the ball around and they punish your weaknesses. They play an exciting brand of rugby and they work hard for each other, they come from a good rugby culture,” he said.
However, he still has plenty of confidence in his team who have shown great fighting spirit and developed as a unit this season.
“We are not an easy team to beat by any means, we pride ourselves on our work ethic and I guess we don’t yield easily,” Mitchell added.
* The Varsity Young Guns Final will also be played on Monday, with UP-Tuks looking to secure their third consecutive title when they host UFS-Shimlas in Pretoria.
The UP-Tuks Young Guns team has not lost a single game in the three seasons that the competition has been running, so a win against UFS-Shimlas will make it a remarkable hat-trick.
The two-time champions were pushed hard by the Bloemfontein side when they met earlier in the season, so despite their unbeaten record they will not be taking anything for granted.
UFS-Shimlas coach Jaco Swanepoel is hoping that the guts his team showed in their semifinal win against NWU-Pukke last week will be enough for them to cause an upset against the UP-Tuks juggernaut.
“The [Young Guns] competition is so short and the preparation time is so short that the best ingredients that you can have is guts and I think we have a lot of that,” he said.
All of the teams and match details:
CUT Ixias v UKZN Impi
(CUT Rugby Stadium, Bloemfontein – Kick-off: 16.30)
CUT Ixias: 15 Charles Hitchcock, 14 Alec Mhlanga, 13 Johan van Schalkwyk, 12 Duan Pretorius, 11 Kholo Ramashala (captain), 10 Noel Marx, 9 Stephan Griesel, 8 Dean Kouprianoff, 7 Vincent Marupeng, 6 Frans Sisita, 5 Lyvette Shikwambana, 4 Fanie Coetzer, 3 Danie van der Merwe, 2 Deon Gouws, 1 Len Noort.
Replacements: 16 Daniel de Jager, 17 Gerhard Baard, 18 Moeka Bolofo, 19 Johann Grundlingh, 20 Marius Grobler, 21 Johan Nel, 22 Theuns Truter, 23 Hanro Liebenberg.
UKZN Impi: 15 Hendrik Groenewald, 14 Shayne Makombe, 13 Brandon Bailing, 12 Kurt Mavrodaris, 11 Hendrik Lategan, 10 Duncan Campbell, 9 Cameron Wright, 8 Deon Carney, 7 Zwela Zondi, 6 Lwazi Ngcungama (captain), 5 Johan Wagenaar, 4 Adam Wessels, 3 Stefan van Schalkwyk, 2 Dean Muir, 1 Henri Boshoff.
Replacements: 16 Mikyle Webster, 17 Bartholomeus le Roux, 18 Gideon Koegelenberg, 19 Sanele Malwane, 20 Nelson Makhanye, 21 Gavin Nyawata, 22 Yandisa Mdolomba, 23 Sizwe Kuhbeka.
Referee: Quinton Immelman
Assistant referees: Jaco Kotze, Khotso Raleteng
TMO: Johan Greeff
UP-Tuks Young Guns v UFS-Shimlas Young Guns
(Tuks Rugby Stadium, Pretoria – Kick-off: 19.00)
UP-Tuks Young Guns: 15 Philip Orffer, 14 Dimitrio Tieties, 13 Marquit September, 12 Adrian Maebane, 11 Keanan van Wyk, 10 Kobus Marais, 9 Ivan van Zyl, 8 Hanro Liebenberg, 7 Chris Massyn, 6 Heinrich Viljoen, 5 Nicolaas Janse van Rensburg, 4 Abongile Nonkontwana, 3 Pierre Schoeman (captain), 2 Arno van Wyk, 1 Piet Strauss.
Replacements: 16 Francois Steyn, 17 Njabulo Gumede, 18 Corne Cooper, 19 RG Snyman, 20 Kobus Wolmarans, 21 Simon Bolze, 22 Jurie Linde, 23 Matthys Basson.
UFS-Shimlas Young Guns: 15 Stephen Rautenbach, 14 Donovan Gissing, 13 Pieter Faber, 12 Stephan Janse van Rensburg, 11 Charlton Koopman, 10 Ruan Potgieter, 9 Zee Makhabela, 8 Andries Kriek, 7 Boela Venter, 6 Steven Meiring, 5 Andre Venter, 4 Justin Basson, 3 Conrad van Vuuren, 2 Reinach Venter, 1 Ox Niche.
Replacements: 16 Anrich Alberts, 17 Petrus Senekal, 18 Daniel Maartens, 19 Refuoe Rampetha, 20 TJ Goodard, 21 Herman Share, 22 Lorenzo Gordon, 23 Gunter Janse van Vuuren.
Referee: Lesego Legoete
Assistant referees: Jan Venter, Wilko Esterhuizen
TMO: Willie Vos