Three previous championship-winning sides have qualified for the FNB Varsity Cup presented by Steinhoff International semi-finals on Monday 3 April. FNB UP-Tuks, FNB Maties, FNB UJ and FNB Shimlas find themselves in the top four, as they battle it out for a spot in the final, to be played on Monday 17 April.
Despite being the only side not to have their name etched on the coveted Varsity Cup trophy, FNB UJ have had a special season in the competition. Up until last week, the Johannesburg-based side had managed to maintain a five-match winning streak. They are also the only side to have beaten the log leaders, FNB UP-Tuks earlier in the season.
Between FNB Maties, FNB Shimlas and FNB UP-Tuks the trophy has been won six times, only FNB UCT and FNB NWU-Pukke lifted the trophy outside of these three semi-finalists. FNB Shimlas, who won the tournament with current Cheetahs head coach Franco Smith, will travel to Pretoria to face an in form FNB UP-Tuks side while for FNB UJ it will feel like deja vu when they return to the intimidating Danie Craven stadium to face three-time winners, FNB Maties, just seven days after their heavy defeat.
FNB Maties vs FNB UJ
The home side are the favourites to take this one and advance to their seventh Varsity Cup final. Hawies Fourie’s men thrashed FNB UJ at the same venue, in the final round of the regular season, which was just a week ago. The men from Johannesburg will have to overcome the brilliant FNB Maties defence and then have to contend with a possible sold-out Danie Craven stadium.
FNB Maties will have to improve their discipline if they want to go the extra yard and qualify for the final. Playmaker Divan Nel’s accuracy from the tee has been immaculate. Nel is this season’s leading point scorer and all his points have come courtesy of his boot. The Maroon Machine have used their first phase ball to good effect, their scrums and lineouts have gifted speedsters such as Craig Barry, Edwill van der Merwe, Kyle Steyn and Duncan Saal quality ball, out wide.
Despite most of the stats being similar, the one that separates these two sides from last week’s encounter is the fact that FNB Maties ran in nine tries to FNB UJ’s two. If the visitors want to advance to the 2017 Varsity Cup final, they will have to starve the three-time winning side in their own backyard.
FNB Maties: 15 Craig Barry, 14 Kyle Steyn, 13 Michal Haznar, 12 Chris (Barend) Smit, 11 Edwill Van Der Merwe, 10 Ernst Stapelberg, 9 Brendon Nell, 8 Devon Nash, 7 Stephan Streicher, 6 Mitchell Carstens, 5 Johan Momsen, 4 Ian Groenewald, 3 Je (Jacobus) Van Der Merwe, 2 Craig Corbett, 1 Niel Oelofse
Replacements: 16 HJ (Hendrik) Luus, 17 Wesley Adonis, 18 Wikus Groenewald, 19 Ruben De Villiers, 20 Saud Abrahams, 21 Paul De Wet, 22 Chris Smith, 23 Duncan Saal
FNB UJ: 15 Ewan Adams, 14 Peter John Walters, 13 Aphiwe Dyantyi (v/c), 12 Jaco Fourie, 11 Godfrey Ramaboea, 10 Divan Nel, 9 Johan Esterhuizen, 8 Jo-Hanko De Villiers, 7 Leon Massyn, 6 Wian Conradie, 5 Adrian Bester, 4 Kevin Du Randt, 3 Nico Du Plessis, 2 Jannes Snyman (c), 1 Dillon Bakos
Replacements: 16 Le Roux Baard, 17 Kyle Kruger, 18 Chergin Fillies, 19 Kyle Van Dalen, 20 Reinhardt Nothnagel, 21 Devon Mare, 22 Ronald Brown, 23 Carlisle Jordaan
FNB UP-Tuks vs FNB Shimlas
The 2015 champions, FNB Shimlas failed to qualify for the semi-final in last year’s competition, but despite narrowly making it into the final four, the team from Bloemfontein will want to make amends on Monday evening in Pretoria.
FNB UP-Tuks have only lost one match so far this season, against FNB UJ, and are on a six-match winning streak. The home side have not lost at home all, season and even away from home, Pote Human’s men are deadly both on attack and defence. The back-to-back champions in 2012 and 2013 broke the gain-line 35 times in last week’s encounter with the defending champions, FNB NWU-Pukke. Their handling skills have also been immaculate all season. Impi Visser, Toko Maebane, Dewald Naude, Divan Rossouw and Sibahle Maxwane will be instrumental in Monday’s crucial semi-final match.
FNB 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 (C), 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
FNB Shimlas: 15 Marco Mason, 14 Vuyani Maqina, 13 Lihleli Xoli, 12 Stephan Janse Van Rensburg, 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
By Lyndon Julius