Ikeys Must Be The Favourites Against NWU Eagles

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This will be the third FNB Varsity Cup semi-final meeting between the teams, with FNB UCT having won by a point in 2008 and FNB NWU by two points in 2009.

The Ikey Tigers beat the Eagles 42-36 in their Round 8 encounter this year, before going on to top the log for the first time since the inaugural FNB Varsity Cup in 2008. The Eagles snuck into the semi-finals after beating FNB CUT in their last league-stage fixture.

FNB UCT have been the trendsetters this season from the moment they ended FNB Maties’ 25-match unbeaten run in the opening round.

The Ikeys are ruthless on attack, as evident by the fact that they achieved seven try-scoring bonus points from the eight matches they played.

Fullback Athi Gazi and wing Rethabile Louw both crossed the whitewash on six occasions, while the Ikey Tigers' energy has been effectively directed by flyhalf James Tedder, who has scored 105 points.

FNB UCT will go into Friday’s semi-finals as favourites but will not underestimate their opponents.

"NWU have a big, physical side that will want to bully us,” says FNB UCT coach Tom Dawson-Squibb. “They have a very strong maul, which they have made good use of throughout the tournament, and some really talented players. You can see that they’re a resilient and tight-knit side, and they will provide us with a good challenge.”

Ikeys captain Liam Greenhalgh says reaching the semi-finals means a lot to his team considering what they have gone through.
“It’s a testament to all the hard work, dedication and sacrifices we've had to make as group since last September. It's been a helluva journey that we've thoroughly enjoyed and I think we are going to express how much it means to us by producing our best possible performance in the semi-final.”

Meanwhile, FNB NWU are happy to go into the playoffs as underdogs.

“We don't have any pressure on us,” says Eagles coach André Pretorius. “The pressure is firmly on UCT as they're expected to win the semi-final. That gives us the freedom to play and that's when we're the most dangerous.

“We’re expecting a fierce contest at the breakdown,” Pretorius added. “UCT have shown time and time again throughout this competition that they are very effective at the breakdown, so we need to be clinical there to nullify that threat. Their kicking game has also worked really well for them, so patience will be key for us.”

FNB NWU captain Lincoln Daniels says that having worked so hard to get into the semi-finals, his men aim to make the most of the opportunity.

"We want to show what we are capable of and see it as another chance to lift the Varsity Cup.”

Hooker Gustav du Rand and loose forward André Fouché have been stalwarts for the Eagles this season, with the former scoring eight tries, while flyhalf Keagan Fortune has contributed 62 points.

FNB UCT Ikeys – 15 Athi Gazi, 14 Rihaz Fredericks, 13 Evardi Boshoff, 12 Le Roux Malan, 11 Rethabile Louw, 10 James Tedder, 9 William Rose, 8 Christian Stehlik, 7 Niel Otto, 6 Liam Greenhalgh (c), 5 Gary Porter, 4 Byron Cranswick, 3 Robert Hunt, 2 Devon Arendse, 1 Luthando Woji. Replacements: 16 Josh van Vuuren, 17 Seth Christian, 18 Jovan Bekker, 19 Byron Bowes, 20 Taariq Kruger, 21 Kyle Bowman, 22 Sibabalwe Mzanywa, 23 Duran Koevort.

FNB NWU Eagles – 15 Shane van Rooyen, 14 Sylvester Hassien, 13 Lincoln Daniels (c), 12 Marco Donges, 11 Keano Windvogel, 10 Nivan Petersen, 9 Riaan Genis, 8 Didintle Sekati, 7 Ruben Dreyer, 6 André Fouché, 5 Jeandré Leonard, 4 Malembe Mpofu, 3 Sampie Swiegers, 2 Gustav du Rand, 1 Ruben du Plessis. Replacements: 16 Vernon Paulo, 17 Rehann Baumann, 18 Arno Gustafson, 19 George van der Westhuizen, 20 Jandré de Beer, 21 Caleb Louw, 22 Kagiso Woodbridge, 23 Pienaar van Niekerk.