Week Four of the 2009 FNB Varsity Cup presented by Steinhoff International is shaping up as the most exciting round of fixtures, with the FNB Tukkies-FNB UCT clash set to produce some entertaining rugby with top four places up for grabs.
Varsitycup.co.za reports that Tukkies currently find themselves top of the log after three rounds of action, having started the 2009 competition with a hard-fought away win over FNB Pukke in Potchefstroom.
Since then, big wins over NMMU and TUT have seen the Men from Pretoria firmly establish themselves at the top of the standings, but Monday’s match could see them entrench themselves at the top of the standings should they beat the visiting Capetonians.
UCT have rested a few key men for this crucial encounter, with Ikeys head coach John Dobson telling varsitycup.co.za: “It’s a long and taxing tournament this, so we had to bite the bullet, as it were, and give guys like Mike (Passaportis), Nic (Fenton-Wells) and Piet (Engelbrecht) a welcome break.
“We’d dearly love to beat Tukkies on Monday, but we need to look at the bigger picture too, but at the same time it gives those guys coming in the perfect opportunity to lay their own selection claims against a team that is playing some very good rugby.”
One of the key men in the Tukkies line-up will be fullback Johan Jackson, who – given his vast experience, pace and power – will test the visitors should they kick any ball down his throat or miss any first-time tackles.
“It is great that we are currently in first place but we will need to keep focus. I think we are at 70% of where we want to be and we will improve with time,” Jackson told varsitycup.co.za. “Our next game will tell us where we find ourselves playing-wise.”
Away from Pretoria, all eyes will be on another mouth-watering fixture when defending champions, FNB Maties, play host to national club champions FNB Pukke in a battle to decide just who the best side; the Varsity Cup champions or the national club champions.
Maties – along with Tukkies – are the only unbeaten side in the tournament, but, oddly, they are yet to pick up a four-try bonus point this season. Whilst wins over UCT, UJ and Shimlas (two of them away from home) are not to be scoffed at, the Maties have not been at their free-running best so far.
“Look, we’ll take our three wins so far,” said Stellenbosch head coach Chean Roux. “I don’t think bonus points are that important at this stage of the season, but it’s also a lot easier to target bonus points in your home games in front of your own support and on a field that you know a lot better.”
Whilst the Maties know the Danie Craven Stadium very well – with a full-house expected to cheer on the Men in Maroon – Roux admitted that he did not know much about the Pukke class of 2009, saying: “This is a different Pukke side under a new coach in Rudy Joubert.”
Pukke are currently in fourth place on the Varsity Cup log, having won two from three games thus far, with Maties just two points, but two positions ahead of them in second place.
Tukkies, of course, are tops, with UCT in third place. Many pundits have suggested that the current top four will also line up in the semifinals in March, but this Monday’s fixtures could have a massive say in the final analysis of the 2009 Varsity Cup.
In other action on Monday, FNB UJ play host to FNB Shimlas – in of the two televised matches this week. Both UJ (sixth place on the log) and Shimlas (fifth) are chasing their second victories of the season and a loss for either could be catastrophic for both side’s play-off hopes.
With UJ and Shimlas chasing their second wins of the season, Port Elizabeth will be the place to be on Monday evening as FNB NMMU play host to FNB TUT, with both sides looking for their first victories of the season.
NMMU have shown a considerable improvement this season, but they are still chasing their first-ever Varsity Cup victory against a physical TUT side that narrowly went down to UJ in the first week, before losing heavily to UCT and Tukkies in weeks two and three, respectively.
Week Four schedule:
Monday, February 23:
FNB UJ v FNB Shimlas, UJ Stadium, Johannesburg – 4.45pm (TV)
FNB Tuks v FNB UCT, LC de Villiers Stadium, Pretoria – 6.45pm
FNB NMMU v FNB TUT, Xerox NMMU Stadium, Port Elizabeth – 6.45pm
FNB Maties v FNB Pukke, Danie Craven Stadium, Stellenbosch – 6.45pm (TV)