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CPUT recharge ahead of WSU 'quarterfinal'

PREVIEW: Coach Alastair Theys says that the two-time Varsity Shield champions have identified the clash against WSU as a potential turning point in their season.

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CPUT have been one of the most dominant teams in the Varsity Shield over the past five years – and have come agonisingly close to qualifying for the Varsity Cup in recent seasons.

After winning consecutive Varsity Shield titles in 2019 and 2021, they featured in the next two finals.

They went down 27-28 to UFH in 2022 and lost 18-24 to UWC in 2023 – with the latter result costing them promotion to the top flight.

This season, however, CPUT have been anything but dominant, losing four of their five matches.

While Tuks, the Madibaz and Varsity College are still in the hunt for a home semifinal, CPUT are yet to qualify for the final four.

WSU currently sit in fourth place with 10 points in the standings, followed by CPUT (six), TUT (five), UKZN (five) and UFH (four).

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Tuks, who are yet to lose a game, are expected to end TUT’s semifinal hopes in the next round – which will be staged on 4 and 5 April following the Easter break.

The loser of the clash between UFH and UKZN could also bow out of the playoff race.

While there are still two rounds to play, the meeting between CPUT and WSU in Cape Town next Friday may determine who secures fourth spot in the standings.

Theys insisted that the team is in a positive space, despite their 38-23 loss to Varsity College in Durban last week.

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At the same time, the players are all too aware of what’s at stake in the next game, which is effectively do-or-die.

“We prepared really well for College, and while there were some soft moments that cost us, we saw a few improvements,” Theys told @Rugby365com.

“Now we’ll have a big recovery week.

“We did a few training sessions earlier in the week, but the players have been given the weekend off to visit their families over Easter.

“We thought that was important, to give them that break to recharge.

“They know that come Monday, they’ll be back at training and looking ahead to a massive clash against WSU next Friday.”

Theys admitted that CPUT only has themselves to blame for the present situation. Due to the poor run of results, they cannot finish higher than fourth in the league, and cannot host a semifinal.

“It’s been an up-and-down campaign, and we find ourselves in an unfamiliar situation where we’re outside the top four with two rounds to play.

“We knew that there would be some challenges, with a new squad adapting to a new game model.

“Fortunately, we are still in the hunt. If we get 10 points from the next two games, we’re through to the semis – and that is familiar territory for us.”

Theys pointed out that the loser of the coming match is likely to finish outside the top four.

WSU will move up to 14 points – and secure a place in the semis – with a win over CPUT. Even if the Capetonians claim two bonus points in defeat, and a further five points from their last league match, they will finish behind their Eastern Cape counterparts.

If CPUT beats WSU, however, they will move up to 10 or 11 points.

From there, they will have the easier run-in to the semifinals, playing a misfiring UKZN outfit, whereas WSU will face Varsity College, one of the form teams of this year’s Shield tournament.

“When we started the season, we saw Tuks and the Madibaz as our two biggest games. Now there’s a situation where CPUT or WSU will probably miss out on the playoffs altogether,” said Theys.

“WSU has had a similar campaign to us, in that they’ve fired in patches. We only really started to see that traditional WSU physicality in the recent clash against UFH [which WSU won 29-5], and it appears as if they’re building momentum at the right time.

“There’s a lot of history between these two teams, and so much will be on the line when we meet next week. Apart from their physicality, they’re an unpredictable outfit that can strike from all parts of the field. We’ll have to be at our best to win this one.”

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