There will be some scores to settle for the away teams in the 2014 FNB Varsity Cup presented by Steinhoff International semifinals on Monday.
Both FNB Maties and FNB NMMU were humbled in front of their home crowds in their respective regular season clashes with FNB UCT and FNB NWU-Pukke, so they will be out to return the favour and book a spot in the final in the process.
The table-topping NWU-Pukke have lost just one game this season, and they showed the Madibaz no mercy in their 52-16 demolition of the Eastern Cape side back in Round Four, so coach Robert du Preez’s men will be full of confidence heading into this one – knowing that a first-ever home final is within reach.
The other semifinal will see old rivals UCT and Maties do battle on the Green Mile in Cape Town, with the visitors out for revenge after the Ikeys notched up an impressive 33-16 win in Stellenbosch in Round Two.
Both NMMU and Maties showed great character last week to book their semifinal spots, with Maties scoring five tries in the second half to knock defending champions FNB UP-Tuks out and the Madibaz grabbing a late try which earned them two bonus points and ended FNB UFS-Shimlas’ campaign.
They will need to show just as much fighting spirit on Monday as they travel to face the form teams in the competition who have lost only three games between them all season.
NMMU’s one-point loss to UFS-Shimlas last week was their only away defeat of the season so far, but they will certainly have their work cut out for them in Potchefstroom against a well-drilled NWU-Pukke outfit.
NWU-Pukke have played in a final before – back in 2009, where they lost to the Maties in Stellenbosch – whilst the Madibaz are yet to reach a final, having played in their first semifinal last year where they went down, unluckily, to the Maties.
The Maties, meanwhile, will take heart from the fact that UCT’s only two defeats this season have come at home, with the notoriously windy conditions on the Green Mile set to have a major say in the outcome once more.
The Men in Maroon have won three Varsity Cup titles (2008-2010), beating the Ikeys (the 2011 champions) in the 2008 and 2010 finals. However, this will be their first-ever semifinal meeting and promises to be a memorable one.
Entry for the semifinal at the Fanie du Toit Sports Grounds in Potchefstroom is free, whilst tickets for the Cape derby on the Green Mile can be obtained for R30 from the webtickets website.
Monday will also see the final round of Varsity Shield action which will decide which team faces defending champions FNB CUT in the final next week.
The Ixias have already booked their spot, so it will be a question of who they will be up against, with FNB UKZN and FNB Fort Hare the only two sides in the running to play in their first final.
John Mitchell’s UKZN Impi currently occupy second spot, and they will host CUT in Pietermaritzburg whilst third-placed Fort Hare will welcome bottom-placed FNB TUT to Alice as they look to leapfrog the Impi and claim a spot in the final along with a shot at promotion to the Varsity Cup.
In the Varsity Young Guns competition there will be a replay of last year’s final as two-time champions FNB UP-Tuks take on the Steinhoff Junior Maties in Pretoria looking to extend their remarkable unbeaten run in the competition.
The other semifinal will see the unbeaten FNB UJ host the UFS Young Guns side that snuck into the play-offs with a dramatic draw with NWU-Pukke last week.
The Steinhoff Koshuisrugby Championship also heads into the knock-out phase on Monday, with NWU-Pukke’s Steinhoff Patria hosting the Steinhoff Purple Cobras from UCT and Maties Steinhoff Medies travelling to Bloemfontein to take on Steinhoff Heimat.
Both home teams are yet to lose a game this season, so the visitors will have to play out of their boots if they are to cause an upset and make the final next week.