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Varsity Cup: Round 9 Preview
We preview the final set of round-robin Varsity Cup fixtures, including the headline clash between Pukke and Tuks.
We could be in for some high-scoring affairs today with Maties and Tuks level on points at the top of the Varsity Cup standings. A bonus point victory for each side would see them remain level, however Tuks’ superior points differential – I did a frantic search this morning trying to find out how teams are separated when level on points and it seems it comes down to points differential rather than head to head results – would see them maintain first position and secure a home final should they win their semi.
So the equation is simple for Maties, they need to overturn Tuks’ 53 points advantage – as it currently sits - or they need Pukke, who themselves need a bonus point win to advance to the semis, to turn their season around and put up a real fight against a rampant Tuks outfit.
So will it be Tuks who secure the rights to a home final or will Maties pull a rabbit out of the hat?
Pukke v Tuks | Monday 27 March | Fanie du Toit Sports Ground | 16:45
To Win (80 Mins)
Pukke 9/2 | Draw 28/1 | Tuks 1/7
Pukke (+14.5) 17/20 | Tuks (-14.5) 17/20
Pukke come into this one knowing that nothing short of a bonus point victory will give them a shot at defending their title. The men from Potchefstroom have been a shadow of their all-conquering selves this term, only managing to register four wins from their seven fixtures. While their attack has fired, their poor defensive structure has severely dented their title defence. They will need to up their defensive game tenfold if they are to get a win over the side who have scored the most points in this year’s competition.
After a disappointing 2016 season, Tuks have re-announced themselves on the Varsity Cup stage with some stylish performances. The men from Pretoria have racked up a staggering 304 points in their seven round-robin fixtures. They have also only lost one of their seven round-robin phase games, which was a one-point defeat to UJ back in Round four.
Verdict: Tuks (-14.5) 17/20
The equation is quite simple for Tuks; win with a bonus point and they are all but assured a home final. I can see them doing just this against a Pukke side that has been extremely frail defensively.
To Win (80 Mins)
Maties 1/7 | Draw 28/1 | UJ 9/2
Maties (-15.5) 17/20 | UJ (+15.5) 17/20
The second televised game of the day has fewer permutations surrounding it but it could still have a massive bearing on who claims the Varsity Cup. Like I mentioned in the intro, Maties are going to need to put a massive score over UJ or Pukke are going to need to restrict Tuks from claiming a bonus point, if the Cape-based side are to have any chance of hosting the final.
Unlike Maties, UJ have nothing to play for here as they can only finish third on the standings regardless of what happens in their fixture. This leads me to suspect that we could see a whole host of UJ first stringers left out of the match-day squad.
Both sides come into this one off the back of decent results with Maties beating CUT 44-73 and UJ edging out a spirited Wits outfit 28-23. UJ beat Maties 42-16 last year, while Maties won the 2015 contest 16-15.
Verdict: Maties (-15.5) 17/20
The visitors will be desperate to put a big score over their opponents in a bid to claim first spot on the log. While I don’t think they’ll manage to achieve that specific goal, I can still see them putting a large score over an under-strength UJ outfit.
Wits 2/11 | Draw 25/1 | Ikeys 33/10
Wits will be looking to cap off their return to the top tier of Varsity Rugby by registering a win over an Ikeys outfit who are also out of the running for a semi-final berth. I can see both teams using this game to blood some youngsters. Wits have a much better crop of youth players at their disposal and I can their young guns running Ikeys ragged. Get on the -10.5 handicap at 15/20.
CUT 9/2 | Draw 28/1 | NMMU 1/7
After a massive drop in form, that saw them ship 143 points over a fortnight, CUT have started to turn things around. This upswing in fortunes couldn’t have come at a better time for CUT as they could face the prospect of dropping to the Varsity Shield should they lose this one. The same rings true for the Madibaz who are only three points clear of CUT on the log standings. Two weeks ago I would have tipped NMMU with confidence, however, CUT's recent performances have really impressed me. My money is on the hosts pulling off a narrow win.