The 2009 FNB Varsity Cup presented by Steinhoff International moves into Round Three on Monday, with yet another appetising set of fixtures in wait as log-leaders FNB Tuks travel away once again, this time to FNB TUT in a bid to keep up their early-season momentum.
Varsitycup.co.za reports that Tuks have thus far managed two from two victories (and a near full-house of nine log points), having won both matches away from home and they are well-placed even though they are yet to play at home in 2009.
FNB TUT, on the other hand, are winless – losing to FNB UJ and FNB UCT – but Tuks coach Freddie Grobler still refuses to take anything for granted ahead of Round Three.
“This may sound harsh but I don’t think we’re playing particularly great rugby at the moment,” the Tuks mentor told varsitycup.co.za.
“However, I am quite pleased with our results and what makes me excited is that we top the log without really having played to our full potential.”
Breathing down Tuks’ necks, however, are defending champions, FNB Maties, who despite being unbeaten – beating the likes of the Ikeys and UJ – have not picked up any bonus points in the process.
But Stellenbosch coach Chean Roux believes all teams have improved “considerably” this season, saying: “After the success of the 2008 tournament I think a lot of the universities have realised what’s actually at stake in the Varsity Cup.
“As a result, everyone upped their pre-season preparation, while the intensity has been that much higher in all the games thus far.”
Roux found out all about that “intensity” in his team’s narrow 12-10 opening win over UCT – the team they beat in last year’s final – but as he, himself, admits “any win will do”.
The Ikeys might have been a tad unlucky in that defeat at Groote Schuur, but the Capetonians bounced back from that first-round loss at home to post a welcome 39-21 away win over TUT last Monday.
Former Maties fullback Therlow Pietersen scored two fine tries, but another ex-Stellenbosch player, Tiger Bax, grabbed all the headlines with a defence-shredding performance against the Pretoria-based side.
Afterwards, Andrew Lanning – a former WP prop who now writes for sport24 – said of Bax, “already you can see the signs of greatness”, whilst UCT backline coach Robbie Fleck was as – if not more – impressed.
“I have always rated him and I was very excited when he joined us this year and I’m very chuffed to be coaching the next big thing in South African backline play,” wrote Fleck in his rugby365.com column.
“He can kick with boot feet, pass to both sides with ease, he has vision and he loves taking the ball up to the advantage line. In many ways Tiger reminds me of Stephen Larkham, only a more energetic version.”
Bax finds himself at outside centre once again as the Ikeys prepare to host the University of Johannesburg (UJ) on their own patch late on Monday afternoon.
FNB UJ are currently lurking in sixth place on the log, with one win and one loss, but they would like nothing more than stunning the Ikeys on their turf, after UCT grabbed a come-from-behind 34-31 victory at their ground last year.
In other action on Monday evening, FNB Shimlas – who are level on points with Pukke and just one ahead of UJ – will entertain the defending champion Maties, whilst in Potchefstroom, FNB Pukke will play host to FNB NMMU.
NMMU have twice conceded over 30 points this season, but they are a vastly different side from the winless outfit from 2008 and with the likes of Hennie le Roux and André Vos involved as technical advisors, they could still cause a shock this season.
“Our discipline let us down against Tukkies,” NMMU team manager Denver Brandt told varsitycup.co.za this past week, “you can never play with 13 men and hope to win.”
Week Three schedule:
Monday, February 16:
FNB UCT v FNB UJ, Groote Schuur Rugby Field, Cape Town – 4.45pm (TV)
FNB TUT v FNB Tuks, TUT Stadium, Pretoria – 6.45pm (TV)
FNB Shimlas v FNB Maties, Shimla Park, Bloemfontein – 6.45pm
FNB Pukke v FNB NMMU, Fanie du Toit Sports Grounds, Potchefstroom – 6.45pm