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Derby defeat won't douse Ikeys' flame

Coach Tom Dawson-Squibb says that the UCT Ikeys will fight fire with fire when they host an attack-minded UJ side in the next round of the Varsity Cup.

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The Western Cape derby between UCT and Stellenbosch is one of the highlights of the Varsity Cup calendar.

This past Monday, Maties beat the Ikeys 15-10 in a game staged in extremely windy conditions at the University of Cape Town.

A late try by Ikeys centre Jonathan Roche earned the hosts a valuable bonus point and ensured that they finished the round in fourth place.

Nevertheless, Dawson-Squibb and his charges were unsatisfied with the result and will be looking to bounce back against the University of Johannesburg in Round Three.

“They say that the sun rises the day after a loss, but when I got up this morning, all I could see were clouds,” Dawson-Squibb told @rugby365com.

“We have to do better. There were some great moments on defence, and I cannot fault the intensity and passion of my team. Ultimately, Maties got the better of us at the set piece.”

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The preceding match between UJ and the UFS Shimlas in Johannesburg was delayed due to lightning in the area and, as a result, the start of the match in Cape Town was pushed back.

It subsequently emerged that the derby at UCT would not be broadcast due to the high winds in the area.

“We can’t blame our performance or the result on the delayed start, as Maties as well as ourselves were forced to wait in the change rooms,” said Dawson-Squibb.

“The fact that the game wasn’t televised had no impact on the performance.

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“That said, it is disappointing when something like that happens, because there was a big crowd at the Green Mile and a great vibe, and you want that to be on TV.

“From what we understand, it was a call from the City of Cape Town. I’m not sure exactly who was to blame, but I know that it wasn’t UCT’s fault.

“It’s certainly something you wouldn’t want to happen again in future.”

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Varsity Cup standings after two rounds

The wind is so often a factor in games staged on UCT’s Green Mile. According to the local coaches and players, the conditions experienced during the derby on Monday were beyond extreme.

“It was howling. I haven’t got the stats yet, but I would expect the ball-in-play to be very low.

“The wind prevented us or the opposition from getting clean ball, especially at the line-out. Credit to both teams for their defensive intensity. At certain stages, it was a case of wall versus wall.”

It remains to be seen whether the next fixture against UJ will play out in similar conditions. It’s a crucial fixture that may shape the lead-up to the play-offs.

The Ikeys blew hot and cold in their opening fixture against the Shimlas in Bloemfontein.

Nevertheless, they showed remarkable character to hit back late in the game and claim an important 38-32 win.

While they failed to beat Maties in the Round 2, Dawson-Squibb is confident that they are heading in the right direction, and that they have what it takes to end their title drought in 2024.

“I’ve been here for five years now, and in many ways, I think we’ve overachieved.

“Last year, it took us a bit of time to find our rhythm, but we built some momentum as the season progressed.

“It’s been a similar story this year.

“We’ve had some senior players leaving and a few additional challenges in the buildup.

“We’ve taken some time to gel, but there have been some encouraging moments and I’m hoping that we’ll keep building as the campaign unfolds.

“In the first round, we competed in 35-degree heat in Bloem, and in the second we played in a hurricane.

“I felt that we showed some terrific composure to close that first game out.

“Against Maties, there were a few things that went against us, such as the intercept try, but we were very much in the contest.”

UJ will be desperate for any sort of win next week, having lost their first two matches. A narrow defeat to CUT was followed by a gutting 34-31 loss to Shimlas this past Monday.

Like UCT, UJ plays at a lively tempo, regardless of the conditions. The wet weather in Johannesburg this past Monday failed to douse their attacking ambition.

Dawson-Squibb is expecting another onslaught by the Orange Army in the coming round.

“I watched the UJ game, and it makes you realise what a brutal competition this is,” said Dawson-Squibb.

“There really are no easy games.

“I wouldn’t go so far to describe the next game against UJ as a ‘must-win’, but it’s certainly a ‘want-to-win’.

“UJ have got pace and power, and they just come at you for 80 minutes. We’re in no doubt about the defensive challenge we’ll be up against.”

Gale-force winds or not, both teams are likely to favour a running strategy.

“We’ve noted how UJ conceded a few tries to the Shimlas maul and close to the tryline.

“It’s important, however, that you secure your own ball at the line-out first, and as we saw recently, that can be tough when the wind is howling up on the Green Mile.

“I don’t think it’s a case of either team changing their tactics at this stage. Shimlas were successful because they varied their approach and attacked UJ in different ways, and that brought them success. We may try something similar next week.”

@jon_cardinelli
@rugby365com

Picture credit: @varsitycup

 

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