It’s been a rough couple of seasons for the UCT Ikeys, but they are back and just one step away from bagging their third FNB Varsity Cup title. UCT will first have to get past the Tukkies tonight in the FNB Varsity Cup final.

It could be their first since one incredible evening in Potchefstroom back in 2014. A final that will be remembered as one of the biggest botches in Rugby history.

An implausible victory.

The Northwest University found themselves on the verge of a maiden Varsity Cup title in their first appearance in the final since losing to the Maties 11-6 in 2009. Leading the Ikeys 33-15 with seven minutes left on the clock, Pukke were all but assured victory. Right?

Well, wrong. Ikeys scored twice in the space of five minutes. 33-28, 30 seconds on the clock. Enough time for one more attack.

And attack they did, throwing everything at the Pukke defence. But a knock-on with a second left on the clock saw Pukke poised to lift the trophy.

For some reason, instead of thumping the ball in touch, they ran the ball. Strange. Even more bizarre is the fact that Pukke fly-half, Adriaan Engelbrecht, attempted a drop-goal. The game was over. Time was up. They were in the lead. They had the ball!

The attempt at two points (penalties and drop-goals were only worth two points in the 2014 edition of the Varsity Cup) was subsequently charged down, which gave UCT one more chance to attack.

With a bit of magic and probably a whole lot of luck, Nathan Nel scored under the posts to leave the Fanie du Toit Sports Ground in Potchefstroom stunned, silent in disbelief. The UCT fan park back in Cape Town almost losing its roof.

Watch: Relive the final six minutes of this bonkers final.

Falling from grace.

Unfortunately, those type of moments for Ikeys fans were few and far between in the seasons that followed. Ikeys lost in the semifinals in 2015. In 2016, they couldn’t bag a single win. As a result, they ended that campaign in 8th place, on the verge of being relegated to the Varsity Shield competition.

2017 saw them again finish 8th, with just CUT Ixias below them after they failed to register a single win.

Ikeys did manage a 6th and 5th place finish in 2018 and ‘19 respectively, which was a bit of an improvement. but still, a lot left to be desired.

Poised for victory.

The forced gap year in 2020 seemed to have helped get the Ikeys back on the right path.

UCT ended this season’s round-robin stage atop the table for the first time since the inaugural tournament in 2008. They head into the final on the back of an impressive unbeaten run, recording comprehensive victories along the way. 22-40 vs Wits, 5-59 vs Shimlas, 76-5 vs CUT and 58-55 vs UWC.

The Ikeys will face tough opposition tonight, going up against the UP-Tuks at the Tuks stadium. They Kick-off at 19:00.

Rugby and technology will merge on Friday, that’s thanks to a partnership between the FNB Varsity Cup and Sportable. The latter working alongside Gilbert for the past five years to perfect the world’s first smart rugby ball.

The technology has managed to make its way onto the field in the past couple of years, enjoying trials successfully in England. The England national team, Leicester Tigers and Bath were the first to give the ball a go in training. As a result, it could move to tests in real match situations. Gilbert had the ball feature at a sevens type Rugby union tournament in the UK called Rugby X.

In the five years it has spent in development, it has been exposed to stringent testing. Gilbert’s engineers have been working around the clock to perfect the tech. A whole lot of effort, sweat and tears have gone into making sure that the tech inside the ball returns accurate data and doesn’t affect how the ball behaves on the field or in the air.

Watch: The Smart Ball put through the wringer.

Cutting edge competition.

The FNB Varsity Cup has always been at the forefront of innovation, acting as the so-called guinea pigs of countless law trials. This includes double referees, different try values and the Power Play rule in 2018, where a team could remove two backline players for three minutes.

An African first.

Friday’s playoff matches will see the Gilbert x Sportable Smart Ball used in Africa for the first time.

Fans can expect insightful statistics throughout SuperSport’s live broadcasts as well as awesome in-game graphics on the FNB Varsity Cup’s social media platforms.

With existing data capture technologies have hit their ceiling, ball tracking data creates a digital impression of the most meaningful on-field events. This digital blueprint is far more complex than the event data currently produced for rugby.

“We are incredibly excited about the opportunity to work with Varsity Cup and SuperSport to bring our solutions to fans and coaches in South Africa,” says Dugald Macdonald, Sportable founder and CEO. “Varsity Cup’s reputation for pioneering new developments in the game is second to none, so we view the introduction of the Smart Ball on Friday as just the start of a long, exciting partnership.”

What the tech does.

The device inside the Gilbert x Sportable Smart Ball tracks the following key events during a rugby match:

• Kicks in play
• Goal kicks
• Restart kicks
• Lineouts
• Passes
• Possession
• Territory
• Ruck speed

In future competitions, the Gilbert x Sportable Smart Ball will instantly detect and alert referees to forward passes.
The data metrics include:

• Distance
• Speed
• Trajectory
• Hang-time
• Spin rate
• Spiral efficiency
• Reload time (time from catching to passing)
• Start/end time
• Start/end coordinates
• Angle to posts
• Kick difficulty and success

Also read: Eric Tinkler returns to the Blue and Gold Army.

 

Cape Town City FC has confirmed that Eric Tinkler will return to take charge of the Blue and Gold Army with immediate effect.

The 50-year-old Tinkler, who helped Bafana Bafana to a maiden African Cup of Nations trophy in 1996, has signed a four-year deal. The Citizens announced his return earlier this morning and confirmed that his first- and most important job is securing a top 8 finish in their DStv Premiership campaign.

Tinkler steps back into the role of Head Coach after the club decided to part ways with Jan Olde Riekerink. The 58-year-old Reikerink joined the club in 2019 from the Dutch Eredivisie side, SC Heerenveen. On Friday, Reikerink and Cape Town City announced that they came to a “mutual agreement “to part ways.

The Dutchman was placed on administrative leave following a slew of bad results. They were first trashed by 5-1 Benni McCarthy’s Amazulu, followed by a 1-0 defeat to TS Galaxy. The defeat to the Rockets ended their hopes for a top-three finish.

Tinkler first joined Cape Town City from Orlando Pirates in 2016 but moved to SuperSport United soon after. He then spent some time at Chippa United, followed by a move to Maritzburg United. Tinkler was sacked by the Team of Choice in November last year following what Maritzburg Chairman Farook Kadodia described as “an extremely disappointing start to the season”.

The Bafana Bafana legend spent just one season at each club since his 3-year stint with the Sea Robbers.

Only two matches remain for Cape Town City this season. Next week, they will take to the field Wednesday, 2 June, playing host to Black Leopards. The Citizens will wrap up their season at Loftus on Saturday, 5 June, and will try to spoil Mamelodi Sundowns party. Sundowns currently lead the pack atop the DStv Premiership table by 7-points going into the final two matches.

Picture – Cape Town City FC Twitter

The Springboks will make their much-anticipated return to international action in July when the world champions host Georgia in a historic two-match series, which is part of a bumper World Rugby midyear Test schedule.

The series marks the first time Georgia will tour South Africa, while the two Tests are also the first time the two countries will meet again since their only previous clash, at the 2003 Rugby World Cup in Australia.

It means Jacques Nienaber will make his debut as Springbok head coach on the weekend of 2/3 July, with the second clash set for one week later on the weekend of 9/10 July. SA Rugby will confirm the exact dates, venues and kick-off times in due course.

Rassie Erasmus, Director of Rugby, welcomed the World Rugby July Test schedule and said the two-Test series against Georgia offered the Springboks a very good opportunity to prepare for the much-anticipated Castle Lager Lions Series.

“Nothing beats a full-blooded international to test your skill set, readiness and ability under pressure, and we are delighted to have this opportunity before the Lions series,” said Erasmus.

“Jacques (Nienaber),  his coaching staff and management have been working around the clock to get the team as well prepared as possible, and the Georgia series is a much-needed opportunity after such a long and unforeseen interruption due to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Last year, Nienaber was named as Springbok head coach, but the worldwide pandemic has prevented the Rugby World Cup champions from playing any Test matches since 2 November 2019, when they defeated England in the final in Japan.

“The confirmation of the Georgian Tests and the announcement of the British & Irish Lions squad last week have caused a lot of excitement and I am sure it will lift the spirit of the players – we can now accelerate our preparations for our return to Test rugby,” said Nienaber.

Lasha Khurtsidze, the Georgian vice-president for High Performance and Development, described the forthcoming series as a result of the growing friendship and cooperation between the rugby authorities in Georgia and South Africa.

“Playing against them is a great honour for us,” said Khurtsidze.

“We have only played the Springboks once before, in our first Rugby World Cup appearance in 2003, when we scored the first try. A lot of time has passed since then, they are the current world champions and we have developed as well.”

According to Khurtsidze, SA Rugby has over a number of years made an active contribution to the development of Georgian rugby.

“We appreciate the fact that we have a friendly and close relations with SA Rugby. Our Under-20s have been invited to South Africa on numerous occasions to play in very high-level tournaments over there. As a leading tier-one rugby nation, this makes South Africa an important contributor to the development of Georgian rugby.”

Following the historic series in SA, Georgia is scheduled to host Scotland and Lelos head coach Levan Maisashvili said he considers the three successive Tests against Tier One nations as the best development opportunity for his team.

“The fact that the world champions intend to play two Test matches against us is a tribute to Georgian rugby and a serious challenge,” said Maisashvili.

“We will host Scotland after the series in SA, and so I think this is another amazing opportunity to help us in our development.”

A revised programme of men’s Test matches – headlined by the Castle Lager Lions Series – is set to take place in July after all unions and World Rugby agreed a revised schedule within the existing window. The revisions have been made recognising an ongoing and complex global COVID-19 picture while aiming to limit further impact.

Twenty-three of the top 27 ranked unions will be in action. The underpinning principle for the schedule was the fixture calendar agreed in San Francisco in 2017. Where it was not possible or practical to honour that schedule, new arrangements were put in place.

World Rugby Chairman Sir Bill Beaumont said: “This has taken a monumental effort from all concerned. While there is light at the end of the tunnel in respect to COVID-19 in many nations, the challenges continue to be present, dynamic and impactful and therefore I would like to thank the unions, their respective governments, broadcast and commercial partners and players for their flexibility and full commitment to the process.

“Fans around the world can now look forward to an exciting bumper schedule of men’s test matches involving at least 24 teams, which will be a welcome sight for everyone. The road to Rugby World Cup 2023 also continues and, of course, we are anticipating a fascinating British and Irish Lions series.”

World Rugby and unions will continue to monitor the dynamic COVID-19 situation closely and respond if necessary, while any revisions to the November International programme will be confirmed in due course. World Rugby will also maintain its high-performance support for emerging nations ahead of the July tests.

Globally integrated international calendar

Meanwhile, World Rugby continues to lead and facilitate focused and productive discussions with all stakeholders regarding the establishment of a globally integrated international calendar following Rugby World Cup 2023.

International Rugby Players and the respective national leagues are central contributors within the dedicated working groups. Through these discussions, we are united in our mission to optimise the calendar for players, the international and club game.

Additionally, following the announcement of increased high-performance support funding for RWC 2021 qualified and qualifier Tests, World Rugby continues to be in discussion with unions regarding confirmation of a women’s Test programme that will boost preparation for next year’s tournament.

– Issued by SA Rugby Communications and World Rugby

 

 

 

The winner of the 2021 Castle Lager Lions Series in South Africa will be the recipients of the first perpetual trophy in the history of the British & Irish Lions.

It took more than 150 hours to make the trophy, which was hand-crafted by Thomas Lyte – Official Silverware Supplier to the British & Irish Lions – and stands 60cm tall and weighs 6.5kg. The main body of the trophy was handspun from a single sheet of sterling silver, while the base is handmade from Sapele hardwood.

The trophy will be presented to the winner of the Castle Lager Lions Series and go into a trophy cabinet in either the northern or southern hemisphere, before reappearing in 2025 when the British & Irish Lions continue their storied history with a series in Australia.

SA Rugby Communications