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Ikeys coach: We’ll swing for the fences

SPOTLIGHT: The recent defeat in Potchefstroom has only strengthened UCT’s resolve ahead of a rematch with the NWU Eagles in the Varsity Cup semifinals.

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The Eagles beat UCT 30-18 in the final round of the league phase to secure first place in the Varsity Cup standings, as well as home advantage in the play-offs.

With Maties beating CUT and Shimlas downing Wits, UCT have dropped from second to fourth place. The upshot is that the Ikeys will travel back to Potch next Monday to meet the Eagles in the semifinals.

“Heading into that game, we knew there was a strong chance of facing the Eagles in the play-offs – and that is was really a matter of whether we would play in Potch or in Cape Town,” a relatively upbeat Tom Dawson-Squibb told @Rugby365com.

“The loss is not ideal, but we’ve come away from the last game with plenty of positives. I was chatting to [Eagles coach] Burger van der Westhuizen afterwards, and we were joking about the fact that we won’t have to do much more analysis ahead of the semifinal.”

It’s a very much a case of better the devil you know – even if the team in question beat the Ikeys in last year’s final, and more recently in Potch.

“You know what you’re getting from the Eagles. They have some big pieces of meat in their squad, so you have to be able to deal with their set piece and their physicality.

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“I felt that we’ve stayed true to our identity and have created so many chances. Unfortunately, errors have proved costly.”

How much have UCT learned from their losses? Will they sharpen their attack and translate more opportunities into points in the next fixture?

While they aren’t far away from getting it right, they need to be more clinical.

“I remember talking about something similar when I was with the Proteas at the 2023 Cricket World Cup,” Dawson-Squibb explained.

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“When you lose, you’re forced to have all sorts of conversations that you probably wouldn’t have in the wake of a victory.

“In that respect, we can look back at some of our results and take some important lessons. Specifically, I’m talking about the loss to Maties and the draw to Wits – which felt like a loss.”

The Ikeys coach admitted that similar conversations were had after the two defeats to the Eagles.

“We lost to them in the final last year, and we lost to them recently – and I’m sure some people will write us off ahead of the semifinal next week.

“But as I said to the guys, we went up to Potch and pushed the defending champions close. Our execution needs to be better, but if we weren’t creating so chances, I’d be far more concerned ahead of the semifinal.

“We can take some technical and tactical lessons out of the recent meeting, and be better prepared next week.

“As far as the atmosphere is concerned, we should be used to the conditions after what we experienced in the previous game,” he added.

“It’s a hostile crowd, with the home supporters screaming at you for 80 minutes. After what we experienced last Monday, we should be desensitised ahead of the semifinal.

“The Eagles are the defending champions, and they’re playing a knockout game at home. If you look at their squad, their budget and their rugby programme, they deserve to be at the top of the ladder.

“But we also have good reason to feel confident. As I said, we’re not far away from clicking – and come Monday, we’re going to swing for the fences.”

Ikeys coach: We’ll swing for the fences

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