PREVIEW: Varsity Cup #10 is here
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: The 10th instalment of the varsity Cup competition gets underway on Monday, January 30, in what is almost certain to be another highly entertaining competition.
This year's competition has been expanded to nine teams, which gives the teams an equal amount of home and away matches. Furthermore, the organisers of the tournament have tweaked the scoring system by dropping the nine-point try and have also introduced a new 'red card law' - this will allow a team to substitute a player who received a red card after 20 minutes.
The majority of the teams have entered a rebuilding phase, while Maties seem to be the on top of the pile of favourites, followed closely by Tuks and defending champions NWU-Pukke.
Wits take on Shimlas in the early match, while UCT-Ikeys and Tuks play hosts to NMMU-Madibaz and Maties respectively. The opening round concludes in Johannesburg where defending champions NWU-Pukke take on hosts UJ.
We look at all Monday's action!
Wits v Shimlas
(Wits Stadium, Kick-off: 16.45, 14.45 GMT)
Wits are hoping for a fast start to their return to the Varsity Cup competition as they go about proving they deserve their spot in the premier division. They head into this year's competition but a settled, experienced squad - sprinkled with some youthful exuberance.
Shimlas are coming off the back of an average 2016 competition that saw them missing out on the semifinals, ending in fifth place. It is going to be an interesting season for the 2015 champions as, for the first time in three years, they are in the process of rebuilding their squad.
Wits: 15 Lux Ntsepe, 14Kwanele Ngema 13Josh Jarvis, 12 AJ van Blerk, 11Jarred Branco, 10 Warren Gilbert (captain), 9 Ruan Cloete, 8 Jethro de Lange, 7 Mike Renwick, 6 Ruan Macdonald, 5 Rhyno Herbst, 4 Graham Logan, 3 Luvuyo Pupuma, 2 CJ Conradie, 1 CJ Greeff.
Replacements: 16 Justin Brandon, 17 Ameer Williams, 18 Pascal Snyman, 19 Chris Worthington, 20 Wolta Mtsweni, 21 Brandan Hewitt, 22 Themba Mpemvu, 23 Brandon Palmer.
Shimlas: 15 Sechaba Motsoela, 14 Marco Mason, 13 Carel-Jan Coetzee, 12 Stephan Janse van Rensburg (captain), 11 Vuyani Maqina, 10 Niell Stannard, 9 Dian Badenhorst, 8 Bernadus Erasmus, 7 Phumzile Maqondwana, 6 Daniel Maartens, 5 Neil Claassen, 4 Nicolaas Immelman, 3 Ruan Kramer, 2 Hanno Snyman, 1 Kwenzokuhle Blose.
Replacements: 16 Francois Steyn, 17 Johan Kotze, 18 Raymond Woest, 19 Musa Mahlesa, 20 Rewan Kruger, 21 Lihleli Xoli, 22 Nicholas Naude, 23 Thabiso Msiza.
Referee: Stephan Geldenhuys
Assistant referees: Local
TMO: Johan Greeff
UP-Tuks v Maties
(Loftus Versfeld, Kick-off: 18.30, 16.30 GMT)
The rematch of one of the 2016 semifinals is a highlight of the opening round and pits two of the favourites against each other. For Tuks, that semifinal defeat in Stellenbosch will be fresh on their minds as they host Maties at Loftus. Tuks are a settled squad but will have some pressure on their shoulders as they attempt to win the title their third title.
Last year's runners-up, Maties, will want to go one better this time as they are seen by many as the top of the pile among the favourites. They too have a settled squad, with the majority of their players having played in the 2016 Final.
Expect to see a contrast of tactics, as Tuks are renowned for their big bruising forwards while Maties will almost certainly look to release their exciting backline.
UP-Tuks: 15 Divan Rossouw, 14 Dewald Naude, 13 Toko Maebane, 12 Impi Visser, 11 Keanan van Wyk, 10 Tinus de Beer, 9 Theo Maree, 8 Chris Massyn, 7 Marco van Staden, 6 Ruan Steenkamp (captain), 5 Eli Snyman, 4 Aston Fortuin, 3 Neethling Fouche, 2 Jan-Henning Campher, 1 Andrew Beerwinkel.
Replacements: 16 Theuns Reynolds, 17 Jaco Holtzhausen, 18 Brian Leitch, 19 Eduan Lubbe, 20 Raegen Oranje, 21 Christo Hamman, 22 Mervano da Silva, 23 Franco van den Berg
Maties: 15 Craig Barry, 14 Duncan Saal, 13 Kyle Steyn, 12 Braam Venter, 11 Edwill van der Merwe, 10 Ernst Stapelberg, 9 Paul de Wet, 8 Devon Nash, 7 Kobus van Dyk, 6 Beyers de Villiers (captain), 5 Johan Momsen, Ernst van Rhyn, 3 Jacobus van der Merwe, 2 Freddie Kirsten 1 Wesley Adonis.
Replacements: 16 Craig Corbett, 17 Niel Oelofse, 18 Janco Venter, 19 Mitchell Carstens, 20 Logan Boonzaaier, 21 Chris Smith, 22 Ryan Muller, 23 Wikus Groenewald.
Referee: Jaco Pretorius
Assistant referees: Local
UCT-Ikeys v NMMU-Madibaz
(Florida Park, Kick-off: 18.30, 16.30 GMT)
There will be a lot of pressure on both team's shoulders as they will be looking to put in a display that contrasts their 2016 form. This match was scheduled to be a home fixture for the Madibaz, but due to their home ground undergoing renovations, it was rescheduled to take place in Cape Town.
There will certainly be an immense of pressure on Ikeys' new coach Christiaan Esterhuizen to their fortunes around after a horrendous 2016 campaign while being coached by Springbok Hanyani Shimange.
His counterpart, David Maidza, is happy with the position their side in, as many of them were first timers in the 2016 season. This time around, they will have a bit more experience and hopefully, they will be able to put in a performance worthy of being a Cup side.
UCT-Ikeys: 15 Rob Anderson, 14 Seb Roodt, 13 Suwi Chibale, 12 Rico Lategan, 11 Joel Smith, 10 Lohan Lube, 9 Stef de Gouveia, 8 Nyasha Tarusenga, 7 Luke Stringer, 6 Jason Klaassen (captain), 5 Duncan Saffy, 4 Gary Porter, 3 Michael Kumbirai, 2 Cuan Hablutzel, 1 Wayrin Losper.
Replacements: 16 Msizi Zondi, 17 Marty Chandler, 18 Lee-Marvin Mazebuko, 19 Nama Xaba, 20 Sanele Malwane, 21 Hilio de Abreu, 22 Ibbie Adams, 23 Jez Mcintyre.
NMMU-Madibaz: 15 Lindelwe Zungu, 14 Ivan-John du Preez, 13 Siphumelele Msutwana, 12 Andile Jho, 11 Jixie Molapo, 10 Simon Bolze, 9 Lovu Claassen, 8 Kevin Kaba (captain), 7 Lusanda Badiyana, 6 Stephanus Nieuwoudt, 5 Gerrit Huisamen, 4 Wynand Grassmann, 3 Nicolas Roebeck, 2 JP Jamieson, 1 Xandre Vos.
Replacements: 16 Jedwin Harty, 17 Tembelihle, 18 Janse Roux, 19 Henry Brown, 20 Rouche Nel, 21 Thomas Kean, 22 Luan Nieuwoudt, 23 Daniel Voigt.
Referee: Ruhan Meiring
Assistant referees: Local
UJ v NWU-Pukke
(UJ Stadium, Kick-off: 19.00, 17.00 GMT)
Another replay of a 2016 semifinal sees defending champions travel to the UJ Stadium to face UJ. The venue is a happy hunting ground for the Potchefstroom students as they picked up a convincing 35-7 victory.
Pukke have lost a number of their experienced campaigners but that has not stopped coach Johnathan Mokuena from insisting that they will be going out to defend their title.
For the home side, things are a little different. On the one hand, they will have revenge on their minds but on the other, they are in a rebuilding phase and will be looking to test themselves against the more-fancied Pukke.
UJ: 15 Ronald Brown, 14 Tyreeq February, 13 Ramaboea, 12 Jaco Fourie, 11 Aphiwe Dyanti, 10 Divan Nel, 9 Johan Esterhuizen, 8 Jo-Hanko de Villiers, 7 Adrian Bester, 6 Wian Conradie, 5 Estian Enslin, 4 Kyle van Dalen, 3 Nico du Plessis, 2 Johannes Snyman, 1 Dillon Bakos.
Replacements: 16 Emmanuel Morowane, 17 Gela Khanya, 18 Reinhaard Nothnagel, 19 Leon Massyn, 20 Hilton Mudraki, 21 Ewan Adams, 22 Peter-John Walters, 23 Sarel Smit.
NWU-Pukke: 15 Lungelo Gosa, 14 Jimmy Mpailane, 13 Elden Schoeman, 12 Henko Marais, 11 Tapiwe Mafura, 10 Schalk Hugo, 9 Chriswill September, 8 Jeandré Rudolph (captain), 7 Marno Redelinghuys, 6 Wandile Mazibuko, 5 Loftus Morrison, 4 Walt Steenkamp, 3 Dewald Dekker, 2 Wilmar Arnoldi, 1 Dolf van Deventer.
Replacements: 16 Louis van der Westhuizen, 17 Nico van Tonder, 18 Morné Strydom, 19 Boela Venter, 20 Marcel Henn, 21 Caleb Louw, 22 AK Nela, 23 Justin Newman.
Referee: Egon Seconds
Assistant referees: Local
TMO: Marius Jonker
By Tauriq Ebrahim