We preview the 2017 Varsity Cup semi-finals which will see Maties host UJ and Tuks take on Shimlas.We are in for a cracking week of rugby with the 2017 Varsity Cup final set to get the ball rolling. The two semis see an impressive Maties outfit take on UJ and an all-conquering Tuks side take on fourth-placed finishers, the Shimlas.
Maties v UJ | Monday 3 April | Danie Craven Stadium | 16:45
To Win (80 Mins)
Maties 1/25 | Draw 30/1 | UJ 10/1
Maties (-23.5) 17/20 | UJ (+23.5) 17/20
Maties are playing a really attractive brand of rugby at the moment and are well deserving semi-finalists. They had a solid group phase campaign which saw them win seven of their eight fixtures, with their only defeat coming away to Tuks.
Key to the Maties eye-catching showing has been their electric backline and in particular, Craig Barry. The flying utility back may not have scored as many tries as he has in past editions of the competition, but his electrifying pace and eye for a gap have helped Maties launch some searing counter-attacks.
While Maties had pretty much assured their place in the semi-finals before Round 7 had kicked off, their opponents had to get a win over Wits in the penultimate round to assure their participation in the play-offs. They managed to do this, although it must be noted that they were never really secure during the 28-23 victory.
In a twist of irony, these two sides went head-to-head at the Danie Craven Stadium last week with Maties running out 65-19 winners. This week’s game is likely to be a lot tighter, however, with UJ bringing back a few of their rested big guns.
Verdict: (UJ +23.5) 9/10
Last week’s huge win has wrecked havoc on the handicap with the bookmakers pushing it out to 23.5 as opposed to last week’s 15.5. And while Maties did win comfortably last week – by 46 points to be precise – the minus still worries me a slight bit. If you’re going to have an ante-post strike, I suggest taking the plus. My advice for this one, however, is to rather get on the In-Running stuff.
Tuks v Shimlas | Monday 3 April | Tuks Rugby Stadium | 19:00
To Win (80 Mins)
Tuks 1/20 | Draw 30/1 | Shimlas 9/1
Tuks (+20.5) 17/20 | Shimlas (-20.5) 17/20
This is a handicap that is more to my liking as Tuks have been rampant throughout the competition and are unlikely to take the foot off the gas here. The men from Pretoria had an almost flawless pool phase campaign, winning seven out of eight and amassing an incredible 347 points while only conceding 122.
Shimlas were not as flashy during the group stage and just managed to squeak into the semi-finals with five wins. They were absolutely thumped by Tuks when the two sides met in the group stage, with the men from Pretoria running out 19-65 victors at the Free State Stadium.
Verdict: Tuks (-20.5) 17/20
I can’t see this Tuks outfit holding back just because they’re playing knock-out rugby. They have a solid backline who are more than capable of tearing the Shimlas apart. Get on the minus 20.5 cap ASAP as it’s likely to shorten as the day progresses.