Preview: UP-Tuks v UFS-Shimlas
ONE STEP CLOSER: UP-Tuks head into their home semi-final against UFS-Shimlas as the clear favourites after finishing top of the Varsity Cup log at the conclusion of the round-robin matches. Tauriq Ebrahim looks ahead.
Tuks have been playing consistently throughout the competition and despite a Round Four hiccup, have managed to bag a home semi-final and possible home Final, should they progress.
However, they go up against a Shimlas side who were not in action during Round Nine and head into the encounter fresh. They avoided being knocked out of the competition as NWU-Pukke failed to defeat Tuks in the final round and can play with freedom.
It is no secret that Tuks are expected to walk away with a victory and host the Final, scheduled for April 17 but Shimlas could pose a real threat to that expectation.
"Shimlas has nothing to lose, they can come here [to Pretoria], throw the ball around and upset the apple cart.
"We have to be clinical, very disciplined and play 15-man rugby. We will stick to what we have done as that has given us our success.
"The players enjoy that style of play and I want them to still enjoy the occasion because it is a once off game.
"I was happy to get the five points and end first on the log [after our final round-robin match]. I was disappointed in our penalty count during our last game [against Pukke] but the players know we can play better," Tuks coach Pote Human told rugby365.com.
The sides met in Round Seven in Bloemfontein where Tuks claimed an emphatic 65-19 victory over Shimlas.
The match gets underway at 19.00 (17.00 GMT) at the Tuks Stadium in Pretoria. Should Tuks emerge victorious, they will host the Final but if Shimlas manage to pull off an upset, they will travel to either Cape Town or Johannesburg for the Final.
Prediction: It is certainly going to be a mammoth task for Shimlas to head to Pretoria and leave with a spot in the Final but it is not impossible. Shimlas will need to be at their very best, something which has evaded them thus far. The break they had during Round Nine could prove to be exactly what was needed for them to find their form. Tuks will be high on confidence and have their sights firmly fixed on hosting the Final but that could potentially prove to be their downfall. Being overzealous could throw their game plan out of the window and give Shimlas a chance. However, Tuks has experienced players in their squad and that, along with home ground advantage, places the match in their favour. Tuks should claim victory by about 12 points.
UP-Tuks: 15 Divan Rossouw, 14 Dewald Naude, 13 Toko Maebane, 12 Impi Visser, 11 Sibahle Maxwane, 10 Tinus De Beer, 9 Andre Warner, 8 Clyde Davids, 7 Chris Massyn (captain), 6 Marco Van Staden, 5 Aston Fortuin, 4 Bryan Leitch, 3 Neethling Fouche, 2 Els Corniel, 1 Andrew Beerwinkel.
Replacements: 16 Jan-Henning Campher, 17 Jaco Holtzhausen, 18 Marius Verwey, 19 Eduan Lubbe, 20 Theo Maree, 21 Manie Libbok, 22 Joshua Stander, 23 Franco van den Berg.
UFS-Shimlas: 15 Marco Mason, 14 Vuyani Maqina, 13 Lihleli Xoli, 12 Stephan Janse Van Rensburg (captain), 11 Carel Wynand Coetzee, 10 Nicholas Naude, 9 Dian Badenhorst, 8 Wilandre Kotzenberg, 7 Phumzile Maqondwana, 6 Daniel Maartens, 5 Neil Claassen, 4 Nicolaas Immelman, 3 Ruan Kramer, 2 Anrich Alberts, 1 Kwenzokuhle Blose.
Replacements: 16 Hanno Snyman, 17 Johan Kotze, 18 Thabiso Msiza, 19 Raymond Woest, 20 Nardus Erasmus, 21 Armand Pretorius, 22 Rayhaan Lombaard, 23 Sechaba Matsoele.
Referee: Lourens van der Merwe
Assistant referees: Divan Uys, Nathan Swartz
TMO: Shaun Veldsman
By Tauriq Ebrahim