“We’re taking Mondays back!” declared Francois Pienaar, former World Cup winning Springbok captain and now the driving force behind the successful FNB Varsity Cup from February 2 until early April.
Sport 24 reports that at Monday’s launch of the competition, which was hugely successful in its first year in 2008, the eight participating universities expressed their excitement and resolution.
“I don’t know how to measure my side,” said Rudy Joubert, former Springbok assistant coach and a World Cup winner with Pienaar in 1995 when he was the Boks’ technical advisor.
He has just moved to Potchefstroom where he coaches the national champions NWU Pukke who lost to a last-second penalty (32-31) in last year’s Varsity Cup semifinal.
“We have oodles of talent, but not much experience at the back. However, there is so much character that I’m confident,” he said, lauding the structures put in place by former coach Matthew Proudfoot, who is now with Western Province.
Losing 2008 finalists Ikeys (UCT) were determined to do well, but coach John Dobson admitted it could be difficult.
“We caught the guys somewhat unawares last year,” he mused. “We were young and we were too light to get into forward battles and decided to run everything wide. Fleckie (former Springbok centre Robbie Fleck), did wonders and will be back this season.
“We’re hoping for the best and will follow the same approach this year,” promised Dobson.
Champions Maties, who won the 2008 final on the stroke of the hooter when they beat Ikeys, have been working hard.
“The players now know what awaits them,” said coach Chean Roux, former Stormers No 8 and Maties coach. “They seem very determined, but we’ve not been doing anything different from last year.”
Tukkies, who lost in the semi to Maties after extra time, have been working hard and new coach Freddie Grobler is confident that the many player gains could again see them surprise the fancied sides.
During the season 74 black players took part in the competition; an average of 7.03 tries were scored per match by players averaging 21.2 years of age; and the semifinals saw 155 points scored with one semi being decided by the final act of the match and the other going into extra time, emphasising the excitement of the Varsity Cup.
A huge two months of Monday nights awaits.
“Our extensive research has shown that the public want to watch ‘Monday-night football’; the students are back at their universities after weekends away and they want to grab an ice-cold beer and watch their teams play some entertaining rugby on Monday nights,” said Pienaar.
The University of Free State (Shimlas) and Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) will officially kick off the 2009 Varsity Cup at the Groote Schuur Rugby Fields in Cape Town on February 2 at 14:45, before the Ikeys-Maties match at 16:45.
At the Fanie du Toit Ground in Potchefstroom the Pukke will meet Tukkies, while the University of Johannesburg will play Tshwane Univesity of Technology (TUT).
All four matches in Round One will be televised live on SuperSport, with a total of 19 matches (including the play-offs) set to be televised in the tournament. That means a minimum of two matches will be televised live every Monday evening.
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