By Dan Lombard
The University of Pretoria can be proud of both their senior and Under-20 FNB UP-Tuks’ teams as both qualified for their respective semi-finals albeit the senior side will play at home while the Young Guns travel to Stellenbosch as the 2019 FNB Varsity Cup nears its business end.
Both teams also enjoyed byes after their respective clashes with the University of Cape Town in Round Eight and the rest week could not have come at a better time after eight back-to-back matches and a pre-season according to both head coaches, Nollis Marais (FNB UP-Tuks) and Dabeon Draghoender (FNB UP-Tuks Young Guns).
“This competition is gruelling and the break was sorely needed. We needed to regroup and prepare as the verdict was still out with regards to who we were going to face in the semi-final. We also touched on conditioning and match simulation to keep the guys on their toes,” said Marais.
Draghoender added: “This is a new experience for many of our players. They’re used to playing week in and week out at school level but the difference with the FNB Varsity Cup Young Guns is the log. We cannot afford to slip up (which we did as the loss against NWU probably cost us home ground advantage) but that’s in the past now. We can only do what is needed in the knockouts.
“We also had to assist the players to cope with the pressure of knockout rugby. The fact is that we have several res rugby players in our squad and this will in all likelihood be the highest level of rugby that they play which naturally comes with quite a bit of stress.
“As management, we used the unfortunate history of our senior team in 2015 when they topped the log but lost to fourth placed NWU by a point in the semi-final as a way to show the players that they can upset the odds and walk away with their ticket to the final if we play to our structures.”
Semi-final day is fast approaching and when all is said and done, both FNB UP-Tuks’ teams can only leave everything on the the field and hope that it is enough, which is something that both head coaches are confident their charges can do.
FNB UP-Tuks host FNB NWU in the first FNB Varsity Cup semi-final at the Tuks Rugby Stadium on Monday, 8 April with their Under-20 colleagues squaring off against the FNB Junior Maties at the Danie Craven Stadium on the same day. Kick-off is 16:45 (Live on SuperSport1) and 16:30 respectively.