If ever a competition needed a surprise or two, it is the Varsity Cup competition where the winners in the leagues rounds were too predictable and the scores and victories too often too big – an not only in the 2019 competition.
So let’s hope for a little normality where the result is one where both teams in each semi-final on Monday were seemingly in with a chance.
♦ The Maties are the undoubted favourites, especially at home, for Monday’s Varsity Cup semi-final against Shimlas, who scraped into the semi-finals at their very last opportunity and who come off a 14-59 hammering against the Maties just a fortnight ago.
The Shimlas have been good, bad and mostly average this season. They lost a first home match against the Pukke for many a year, were beaten at home by Bloemfontein derby rivals Ixias and won only four of their eight matches.
They have a negative points difference and are rated the fourth best side in the competition.
The Shimlas have a fair backline and flyhalf and playmaker Lubabalo Dobela will be their man who pulls the strings to let players of the quality of Sechaba Matsoele and Marnus Boshoff be competitive.
However, the Maties, as all-round team and with so much class in virtually every position should progress tot the final at a canter and remain unbeaten for their second successive Varsity Cup season.
Maties vs Shimlas
Danie Craven Stadium
15 Anton du Toit, 14 Munier Hartzenberg, 13 David Brits, 12 Chris Smit (c), 11 Edwill van der Merwe, 10 Jordan Chait, 9 Logan Boonzaaier, 8 Stephan Streicher, 7 Ben-Jason Dixon, 6 Chris Massyn, 5 Clee Sesink, 4 Zirk Jansen, 3 Sazi Sandi, 2 Dan Jooste, 1 Wayrin Losper. Replacements: 16 HJ Luus, 17 Ricky Nwagbara, 18 Piet Strauss, 19 Mitchell Carstens, 20 Jesse Johnson, 21 Brendon Nell, 22 Reinhardt Fortuin.
15 Sechaba Matsoele, 14 Charl Pretorius, 13 William Eybers, 12 Tiaan Schutte, 11 Marnus Boshoff, 10 Lubabalo Dobela, 9 Zinedene Booysen, 8 Albertus de Bod, 7 Menzi Nhlabathi, 6 Jan Rossouw, 5 Sibabalo Qoma, 4 Nathan Jordan, 3 Ruan Kramer, 2 Wihan Marais, 1 Daniel Wessles. Replacements: 16 Christian Wiburg, 17 John Fincham, 18 Mogau Mabokela, 19 Henk Pretorius, 20 Olehile Losaba, 21 Rewan Kruger, 22 Cham Zondeki, 23 Kurt Eybers.
♦ In the earlier semi-final Tuks have a recent away win of 28-0 to boost their confidence when they, this time at home, face the Pukke.
Home advantage isn’t really that between these two sides, with five of the last six matches between the two sides going the way of the visitors and nine from 14 in the history of their match-ups.
Tukkies were, at times anyway, very, very good this year. They remain the only side that could conceivably beat the Maties in the final, should both teams progress that far – something that seems likely.
But Tuks have had their soft moments in the season and, against a motivated Pukke side that annihilated Wits last weekend, this could be costly.
Tuks vs Pukke
15 Vaughen Isaacs, 14 Irvin Ali, 13 Lourens Pretorius, 12 Erich Cronje, 11 Ciaran Dayaram, 10 Tinus de Beer, 9 Theo Maree, 8 Denzel Hill, 7 Hanru Sirgel, 6 Stephan Smit, 5 Ruan Nortje, 4 Marius Verwey (c), 3 JP Smith, 2 Johan Grobbelaar, 1 Etienne Janeke. Replacements: 16 Werner Fourie, 17 Jacobus Eloff, 18 Bart le Roux, 19 Brian Leitch, 20 Reagen Oranje, 21 Damian Bonaparte, 22 Xolisa Guma, 23 Ewart Potgieter.
NWU – 15 Shane van Rooyen, 14 Lungelo Gosa, 13 Lincoln Daniels, 12 Evardi Boshoff, 11 Pienaar van Niekerk, 10 Schalk Hugo, 9 Chriswill September, 8 Edmund Rheeder, 7 Wian Conradie, 6 Gideon van der Merwe, 5 Jan du Plooy, 4 Johan Retief, 3 Matimu Manganyi, 2 Louis van der Westhuizen (c), 1 Tshegofatso Moloto. Replacements: 16 Marius Stander, 17 Nelius Theron, 18 Robert Hunt, 19 Ruben du Plooy, 20 Muziwandile Mazibuko, 21 Eugene Hare, 22 Keagan Tait, 23 Nkululeko Mcuma.