The 2017 Varsity Cup was thrown wide open on Monday night with the University of the Free State Shimlas and the North West University Pukke both suffering their first defeats of the competition.
With both sides having impressed in their respective opening games of the tournament, they were almost considered to be the early favourites to set up a repeat of the 2015 final.
At a wet and muddy Shimla Park in Bloemfontein the Shimlas had no answer to the University of Cape Town Ikeys who earned a hard fought 22-7 victory. The wet conditions levelled the playing field and the side from the Mother City used their experience in these conditions to cause somewhat of an upset victory.
In Stellenbosch the Maties simply outclassed the defending champions, the Pukke, for a comprehensive 31-9 victory at a sold out Danie Craven Stadium. After losing their opening match in wet conditions to the University of Pretoria Tuks at Loftus Versfeld, the Maties have now won two matches on the trot and may well be the surprise package of this year’s Varsity Cup.
It wasn’t a good for the sides from the City of Roses on Monday with the Central University of Technology Ixias suffering their second defeat in the competition. A week ago they were most unfortunate against the Ixias at the Green Mile, however, against Wits it was a totally different ball game. Witsies earned their first win after outgunning the Ixias 43-3 for the biggest margin on victory thus far in the 10th edition of the Varsity Cup.
This does, however, set up what should be a thrilling derby when the Ixias play in their first home game of the tournament and it will also be the derby when they entertain the Shimlas. It will be the third time these two sides meet in the competition, with the Shimlas leading the head-to-head 2-0.
In 2015 the Shimlas hammered the Ixias 57-0 at CUT Park and went on to be crowned the eventual champions. Last year it was a much tighter affair with Shimlas beating their local rivals 10-9 at the FNB Stadium in Soweto. The match was played at the alternative venue due to the crowed violence at Shimla Park.
Monday’s derby at CUT Park kicks off at 16:45 and is a televised game.
Round Three Results: Wits 43 vs. CUT Ixias 3; UFS Shimlas 7 vs. UCT Ikeys 22; UP Tuks 33 vs. NMMU Madibaz 16; US Maties 31 vs. NWU Pukke 9.
Round Four Fixtures: 16:45 – CUT Ixias vs. UFS Shimlas, CUT Park (TV); 18:30 – NWU Pukke vs. UCT Ikeys, Fanie du Toit Sport Grounds; 18:30 – Maties vs. NMMU Madibaz, Danie Craven Stadium; 19:00 – UJ vs. UP Tuks, UJ Stadium (TV).