Back to basics says Ikeys boss
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: After a horrendous 2016 Varsity Cup season, new UCT-Ikeys head coach Christiaan Esterhuizen has decided to return to basics as they gear up for the 2017 edition. Leezil Hendricks reports.
Having been part of UCT since 2003, first as a player and as the Young Guns coach in 2015, Esterhuizen has a profound eagerness to restore Ikeys to one of the formidable sides in the Varsity Cup.
However, the 36-year-old knows it is a lot easier said than done and has thus returned his side's focus to the fundamental skills of the game.
Failing to win any of their 2016 Varsity Cup matches under head coach Hanyani Shimange, UCT-Ikeys had to play in the dreaded promotion/relegation play-off.
The Ikeys managed to retain their Varsity Cup status after cruising to a 40-5 win over UWC, giving some loyal Ikeys supporters hope.
"There were so many factors that contributed to our poor season," Esterhuizen told rugby365.com.
"We lost 13 senior players in 2016, so we had to field a really young, inexperienced side.
"Additionally, we had to look at the small things, starting with our gym culture. We have to spend a lot of time on just the basic fundamental skills of our game and recreating pride in Ikey culture.
"I have made it my bid to select guys that want to be part of the Ikeys' fraternity and represent UCT in the Varsity Cup. The guys who are here are solely focused on Ikeys’ success," he added.
The nature of the Varsity Cup always makes it really problematic for institutions to hold onto their stars. And this year, proved no different for Esterhuizen.
"We lost senior players, the likes of Lihleli Xoli who joined the Cheetahs and two locks. But, we brought in five post-graduates, who have played rugby and understand the game. We are hopeful that they can fill the void. Compared to last year, this year our guys are a year older and wiser," he added.
With the preseason drawing to a close, Esterhuizen praised his side for their performance.
"They have been putting in the hard work and preseason has been going well. In terms of matches we only played two matches, we were supposed to play a third one against the Stormers. The match against Maties did not go as planned, Maties convincingly beat us. On Monday [January 23] we played against UWC and walked away with a victory," he stated.
The 2014 Varsity Cup champions kick-off their 2017 campaign on January 30 against the Madibaz in Cape Town.
By Leezil Hendricks