Bloemfontein will be gearing up for a dream final in the 2015 Varsity Cup with the University of the Free State Shimlas and the North West University Pukke set to face each other in the championship match.
On Monday evening the men in blue completed a double over the champions, the UCT Ikeys, with a 21-10 to book their spot in the final of the tournament. They had to wait a few hours, however, to see who they would face and more importantly, to see if it will be a home final. After they did all the hard work on the park, all the Shimlas players, support staff and fans did the unthinkable and became Pukke supporters for 80 minutes.
The side from Potchefstroom in their turn completed the double over the log-leading University of Pretoria Tuks with a 29-28 win to ensure the final will be contested in the City of Roses. Flyhalf Johnny Welthagen redeemed himself after last year’s failed drop goal attempt which led to the side from Cape Town being crowned as champions in Potch. With two minutes left on the clock and trailing by 4 points, Welthagen displayed some individual brilliance to score the winning try to sneak into the final.
While much has been said about Welhagen’s try, the North West pack of forwards actually won the match with their dominance over the two-time champions in the scrum. This is an area of the game the Shimlas want to improve on for the final.
Shimlas fullback and captain, AJ Coertzen, told Courant that their set piece needs work and it has to be spot on in the big intervarsity clash. "We’re a little bit scrappy in our own lineouts and scrums and we need a little more patience with the ball in hand," the delighted Coertzen said.
Ahead of knowing who they will tackle in the final, the inspirational skipper said they don’t mind who they face, however, would prefer a clash against their big rivals. "I will prefer PUK, because it means a home final to us, but whoever we face, I can assure that we’ll do our best in the final," Coertzen added. In just his second starting role for the Free State side, the relatively small-in-stature Daniel Maartens was named Player that Rocks for the second time. As they say in rugby, good combinations hunt in packs and nothing could be closer to the truth when it comes to playing alongside fellow flanker Gerhard Olivier.
Teamwork and brilliant defence have been major factors in the Shimlas’ success this season and Maartens told Courant that coach Franco Smith’s passion has rubbed off on the players. "Coach Franco has brought amazing intensity and passion to the side. He lives for the side, so we just return it to him. I really think it’s the coach’s passion that allows us to come off the line hard and defend the way we do," Maartens keenly said about the former Springbok flyhalf.
Meanwhile, on Monday, the defending champions, the UFS Young Guns will run out in the final of the U20 competition when they tackle Tuks Young Guns at Shimla Park, with kick-off at 19:00. At 16:45, it’s the Varsity Shield final with University of the Witwatersrand Witsies taking on the University of KwaZulu-Natal Impi at the Wits Stadium in Johannesburg.
The Varsity Cup final at the Shimla Park takes place on 13 April with kick-off at 19:00. The Koshuisrugby final will serve as the curtain raiser with Vishuis (UFS) facing Mopanie (TUKS). Last year Heimat, also from UFS, won the title to make it three in a row for teams from the Varsity.