Cape Town – The 2014 Varsity Cup presented kicks off on Monday, giving fans their first taste of the new double referee system.
With the new prop jerseys and the ‘Free Catch’ rule enjoying successful debuts in the opening round of Varsity Shield action last week, all eyes will be on the innovation of having two whistlemen on the pitch in the Varsity Cup this season.
Aside from the new law innovations five of the eight teams are being guided by new coaches this season, giving the tournament an even ‘fresher’ feel this year.
There are some mouth-watering matches lined up to get the competition underway, including replays of both last year’s semi-finals, so expect some hard-hitting action from the outset as the teams seek to stamp their authority early on.
Defending champions UP-Tuks will square up to local rivals UJ in the first match to be televised live on SuperSport 1, and although there are few survivors from the team that beat Maties in the final last year, new coach Pote Human has named a team brimming with talent.
Human’s side features five players from last year’s Junior Springbok team that finished third in the Junior World Championship in France, and all of the new faces will be desperate to make a fast start under new captain and former Matie Reniel Hugo as they look to make it a hat-trick of titles this year.
They host a similarly revamped UJ side that will be out to make a big statement at the Tuks Stadium in their first match under new coach Werner Janse van Rensburg and his former Springbok assistants Ian MacDonald and Gcobani Bobo.
The second televised match (live on SuperSport 1 at 19.00) will be something of a grudge match between Maties and the NMMU Madibaz in Port Elizabeth.
Maties got away with a narrow 16-15 victory in the semi-final clash between the sides in Stellenbosch last year, so the Madibaz will be seeking revenge in front of their home fans under new coach David Maidza.
Matiesâ€™ defeat to UP-Tuks in their home final last year was their only loss the entire season, so expect them to be as ruthless as ever as they hunt for their fourth Varsity Cup title.
Down in Cape Town the UCT Ikey Tigers host NWU-Pukke on the Green Mile. New Ikeys coach Kevin Musikanthâ€™s task will be to revive the fortunes of the 2011 champions after ending in seventh place for the last two years, but he has a tough first assignment on his hands against the team from Potchefstroom.
Former Springbok scrumhalf Robert du Preez has taken over as NWU-Pukke coach after a successful stint with Durban club side College Rovers, and his team will be hungry to prove a point after narrowly failing to qualify for the playoffs last year.
In Bloemfontein, the UFS-Shimlas get their campaign underway against last yearâ€™s wooden spoonists, Wits, who will have their work cut out for them after losing a number of players who failed to meet the academic requirements.
Wits did not manage to win a single game in their debut Varsity Cup season last year after being promoted from the Varsity Shield, and they look to be up against it once more against a settled Shimlas side which boasts the likes of Currie Cup stars Oupa Mohoje and Gouws Prinsloo.
The Varsity Shield enters the second round on Monday after an opening round last week that saw victories for both last yearâ€™s finalists – CUT and UWC.
Former All Black coach John Mitchellâ€™s UKZN Impi were impressive in their narrow defeat to defending champions CUT in Bloemfontein last week, and they will be out to follow that up with a victory over the Fort Hare Blues in their first home game at the Howard College campus in Durban.
Former Springbok coach Peter de Villiersâ€™ UWC team came away with a convincing victory over Fort Hare in Alice last week, so expectations will be high in Bellville when they face the TUT Vikings in their first home game of the season.
All Varsity Cup teams and match details for Monday, February 3:
NMMU Madibaz v Maties
(NMMU Stadium, Port Elizabeth â€“ Kick-off: 16:45 live on SuperSport 1)
NMMU Madibaz: 15 Jarryd Buys, 14 Ayabula Dlepu, 13 Michael Bernardt, 12 Andile Jho, 11 Tythan Adams, 10 Gavin Hauptfleisch, 9 Daniel Acker, 8 Timothy Agaba, 7 Marcel Groenewald, 6 Christopher Cloete, 5 Cameron Lindsay, 4 Stefan Willemse, 3 Dexter Fahey, 2 Martin Ferreira, 1 Roy Godfrey (captain).
Substitutes: 16 Greg Bauer, 17 Nicolas Roebech, 18 Louis Fourie, 19 Wade Elliot, 20 Ivan Ludick, 21 Stefanus Booysen, 22 Donovan Marais, 23 Enoch Mnyaka.
Maties: 15 Craig Barry, 14 Clearance Khumalo, 13 Mark Hodgskiss, 12 Louis Jordaan, 11 Caleb Smith, 10 Chris Smith, 9 Jean Nel, 8 Tertius Daniller (captain), 7 Jurg Streicher, 6 Beyers de Villiers, 5 Wilhelm van der Sluys, 4 Jan de Klerk, 3 Brendon Pitzer, 2 Freddie Kirsten, 1 Wesley Adonis.
Substitutes: 16 Charl de Villiers, 17 Boeta Kleinhans, 18 Renier Ehlers, 19 Lungelo Chonco, 20 Gerhard Jordaan, 21 Robert du Preez, 22 Johnny KÃ´tze, 23 Liam Hendricks.
UCT Ikey Tigers v NWU-Pukke
(UCT Rugby Fields, Cape Town – Kick-off: 17:00)
UCT: 15 Ross Jones-Davies, 14 Richard Stewart, 13 Huw Jones, 12 Guy Schwikkard, 11 Lihleli Xoli, 10 Dean Grant, 9 Liam Slatem (captain), 8 Guy Alexander, 7 Vince Jobo, 6 Shaun McDonald, 5 Jan Uys, 4 James Kilroe, 3 Digby Webb, 2 Neil Rautenbach, 1 Joel Carew.
Substitutes: 16 Chad Solomon, 17 David Maasch, 18 Kyle Kriel, 19 Jason Klaasen, 20 James Alexander, 21 Suwilanji Chibale, 22 Martin Sauls, 23 Robin Murray.
NWU-Pukke: 15 Sylvian Mahuza, 14 Edmar Marais, 13 Jaap Pienaar, 12 Adriaan Engelbrecht, 11 Luther Obi, 10 Johnny Welthagen, 9 Tiaan Dorfling (captain), 8 Juan Language, 7 Henro-Pierre Swart, 6 Rhyk Welgemoed, 5 Francois Robbertse, 4 Peet van Der Walt, 3 Elardus Venter, 2 Armand van Der Merwe, 1 Mashudu Mafela.
Substitutes: 16 Marius Fourie, 17 Johan Smith, 18 Daniel Jordaan, 19 Philip de Wet, 20 Dillon Smit, 21 Rhyno Smith, 22 Lucian Cupido, 23 Lhlanhla Ngoama.
UP-Tuks v FNB UJ
(Tuks Stadium, Pretoria â€“ Kick-off: 19.00 live on Supersport One)
UP-Tuks: 15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Jade Stighling, 13 Rohan Janse Van Rensburg, 12 Burger Odendaal, 11 Kefentse Mahlo, 10 Francois Tredoux, 9 Carlo Engelbrecht, 8 Jono Janse van Rensburg, 7 Rudolph Smith, 6 Roelof Smit, 5 Reniel Hugo (captain), 4 Dennis Visser, 3 Basil Short, 2 Jaco Visagie, 1 Juan Schoeman.
Substitutes: 16 Sidney Tobias, 17 Brummer Badenhorst, 18 Jannes Kirsten, 19 Leneve Damens, 20 Emile Temperman, 21 Dries Swanepoel, 22 Jacques Rossouw, 23 Andrew Beerwinkel.
UJ: 15 Marais Schmidt, 14 JR Esterhuizen, 13 Robert de Bruyn, 12 Harold Vorster, 11 Jacques Nel, 10 Jaco van der Walt, 9 Jacques Pretorius (captain), 8 Kobus Porter, 7 Victor Seketekete, 6 Tiaan MacDonald, 5 David Antonites, 4 Shane Kirkwood, 3 Van Zyl Botha, 2 Francois du Toit, 1 Wiseman Kamanga.
Replacements: 16 Jannes Snyman, 17 Devon Martinus, 18 Jeremy Jordaan, 19 Dylan Peterson, 20 Lukas van Zyl, 21 Juan Kotze, 22 PJ Walters, 23 Ryan Plasket.
UFS-Shimlas v Wits
(Shimla Park, Bloemfontein – Kick-off: 19:00)
UFS-Shimlas: 15 AJ Coertzen, 14 Divandre Strydom, 13 Robbie van Schalkwyk, 12 Joubert Engelbrecht, 11 Sethu Tom, 10 Gouws Prinsloo, 9 Andre van der Walt, 8 Niell Jordaan, 7 Henco Venter, 6 Tienie Burger, 5 Neill Claasen, 4 Oupa Mohoje, 3 Nick Schonert, 2 Elandre Huggett (captain), 1 Dolph Botha.
Substitutes: 16 Jacques du Toit, 17 Gideon Bruwer, 18 Fanie van der Walt, 19 Sihle Ngxabi, 20 Kevin Luiters, 21 Franna du Toit, 22 Maphutha Dolo, 23 Justin Pappin.
Wits: 15 Ruhan Nel, 14 Joshua Jarvis, 13 Mandla Dube, 12 Brent Crossley, 11 Divan Ferguson, 10 Ashlon Davids, 9 Matt Torrance, 8 Jason Fraser, 7 JJ Breet, 6 JP Jonck, 5 Rendani Ramova, 4 Devin Montgomery (captain), 3 Gideon Muller, 2 Ashley Kohler, 1 Hannes Ludick.
Substitutes: 16 James Marx, 17 Kyle Wood, 18 Senna Esterhuizen, 19 Thato Mavundla, 20 Nkuli Gamede, 21 Wilton Pietersen, 22 Pieter van Biljoen, 23 Ferdinand Kelly.
Varsity Shield fixtures:
UKZN Impi v Fort Hare Blues
(Howard College Rugby Stadium, Durban – Kick-off: 19:00)
UWC v TUT
(UWC Stadium, Bellville – Kick-off: 19:00)