CAPE TOWN – All roads lead to the Green Mile on Monday afternoon when the University of Cape Town host the newly-promoted University of Western Cape in the opening round of the Varsity Cup.
The latter, of course, are making their debut in the competition. UWC are coached by former Springbok wing Chester Williams and will be looking to show they belong in the ivy league of student rugby.
“Isn’t it wonderful to have UWC in the Varsity Cup? History is being made,” former Springbok wing Breyton Paulse said. “We are very excited here in the Western Cape. We can’t wait to see them go. I am sure Chessie and the boys will give it horns.”
The excitement has certainly been brewing in the Western Cape since UWC comprehensively won the Varsity Shield last year. The step up from Shield to Cup rugby is, though, an extensive one and UWC will certainly be very dependent on their explosive halfback pairing of Aidynn Cupido and Herschelle Jantjies.
The duo were explosive in last year’s Shield competition and were the architects of many of the wonderful tries UWC scored, but will only be able to have a similar impact this season if the forwards provide the platform through quality first-phase ball.
Former two-times champions UCT will, however, be looking to start the 2019 season on positive note after a disappointing campaign last year. The Ikeys finished in sixth place on the log and failed to qualify for the knockout stages.
UCT will certainly look to impose themselves on their city rivals from Bellville using their greater physicality at the set-pieces. They are particularly effective at scrum time and through the rolling maul, which UWC need to be wary of.
There is a second game in the Western Cape on Monday evening with defending champions Stellenbosch University (Maties) hosting Wits at the Danie Craven Stadium.
Wits were the surprise team of 2018 with the Johannesburg team not only adding a fresh dimension to Varsity Cup rugby, but also backed it up with performances by qualifying for the semi-finals.
Wits will be eager to show they are no “one-season wonders” and a good outing in the winelands will be a major positive for the competition.
In the other action happening on Monday, University of Johannesburg will take on last year’s finalists NWU-Pukke, while Central University of Technology, who narrowly escaped relegation last year, have a major task ahead as they travel to the nation’s capital to face the University of Pretoria.