What a breath of fresh air Varsity Cup was over Easter weekend.
After being starved of amateur rugby for more than a year, I didn’t know what to expect when switching on the telly for some varsity action.
When you’ve been “out of the game” for so long, you kind of forget the passion you had for watching the next-generation of stars coming through.
It didn’t take me long to realise the “club” fire still burns brightly within me.
I deliberately decided not to watch all the action on Sunday – okay, I peeked. But Monday was the big day for our Cape teams. First-up was my alma mater the University of the Western Cape (UWC).
Up against coach Pote Human’s Shimlas, I didn’t expect coach Paul Treu’s charges to get out of the blocks so quickly.
UWC led 23-7 at one stage in the first half, before playing to a 28-28 draw.
But what a match it was, with Shimlas having a try disallowed in the final minute of their first competitive match in over a year.
I don’t know if it is the hunger of not playing for all this time or what, but the first round of varsity rugby action was exciting – dare I say a little more than what was dished up by the professional sides.
Anyway, the Player that Rocks selectors had it spot on by naming UWC fullback Gilroy Lee Philander as the Man of the Match.
Philander proved a menace with ball in hand, despite at one stage being bulldozed by Shimlas outside centre Shayne Bolton before a chicken-wing pass that led to their second try of the match.
Anyway, what a match to set up the Cape derby between Ikeys and Maties.
Entering the match, Maties were on an unbeaten run of 25 games. It was almost as if they just had to pitch up to win the match.
But Ikeys stunned the champions, winning the match 26-20 to announce open season in this year’s Varsity Cup.
Again I felt the Player that Rocks selectors had it spot on when naming Ikeys flyhalf James Tedder – he just looks like a player that is destined for bigger things.
Anyway, tonight will be another big one when Treu’s uDubs take on Maties in nog ‘n Cape derby.
Philander and his teammates will feel that they have a chance of upsetting the defending champions after their failure against Ikeys.
But you get the feeling that there will be some sort of backlash from the Maroon Machine.
Having witnessed how Shimlas targeted the UWC scrum on Monday, I am sure that this is an area the Stellenbosch students would like to cash in on.
UWC, though, have no reason to skrik and just have to go out and play their game for the full 80 minutes.
Treu’s biggest challenge will be just that – getting his players to keep up the intensity they had in the first half against Shimlas.
If not, they will be in for a long day.
As for Ikeys’ fired-up Tigers, they face Wits at Loftus Versfeld’s hallowed turf at 5pm tonight.
UCT’s Johannesburg-based opponents were smashed 48-25 by Tukkies in their first match, meaning Ikeys have a great opportunity to make it two from two.
The action doesn’t stop there for the Cape teams, as their legs will be stretched further when they play their third match in one week on the weekend.
UWC will face the Madibaz on Sunday at 3pm, with Ikeys facing UJ just before that clash.
Round 1 results
Ikeys 26 Maties 20
UWC 28 Shimlas 28
NWU 47 Madibaz 28
Tuks 48 Wits 25
CUT 46 UJ FT
Round 2 and 3 fixtures
Matiesv UWC (2pm)
Madibaz v CUT (3pm)
UJ v Tuks (4pm)
Wits v Ikeys (5pm)
Shimlas v NWU (7pm)
Ikeys v UJ (2pm)
UWC v Madibaz (3pm)
CUT v Shimlas (4pm)
NWU v Tuks (5pm)
Maties v Wits (7pm)