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Madibaz: 'Tuks showdown a final'

PREVIEW: Madibaz coach David Manuel believes that his plucky charges have what it takes to beat Tuks in Pretoria and automatically qualify for next season’s Varsity Cup.

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Two battles will play out in the Varsity Shield over the next few weeks – the battle for promotion to the Varsity Cup, and the battle for the Varsity Shield title.

The league phase will come to an end this Friday.

The team that finishes at the top of the standings will earn automatic promotion to the Varsity Cup, while the second-placed side will face the seventh-ranked Varsity Cup team in a promotion-relegation playoff.

As it stands, Tuks (30 points) and Madibaz (28) are set to finish in the top two.

Regardless of what transpires in the final league round, these teams won’t be surpassed in the standings.

The Shield title, however, pales is significance to the prospect of automatic promotion.

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Both teams are gunning for a first-place finish, and ultimately a ticket to the top tier.

As fate would have it, Tuks and Madibaz will meet this Friday.

The result of the clash in Pretoria will determine which side replaces UWC – the last-placed side in this season’s Varsity Cup – in 2025.

(Continue below …)

Varsity Shield standings after six rounds

“We’re blessed to be in this position,” Manuel told @Rugby365com.

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“We’ve won six out of six matches, and that’s just reward for the players’ effort. At the same time, we don’t have a lot of depth and am grateful that we haven’t had any serious injuries. We can go into this next game with a clear vision.

“We have to be brave,” the Madibaz coach added. “Nobody is going to give us a chance against Tuks, especially up in Pretoria.

“We have to go out and be courageous for 80 minutes, and give ourselves the best possible chance of winning – and going up to the Varsity Cup.”

Both teams come into this clash with unbeaten records.

Tuks, however, have been completely dominant since dropping down to the Varsity Shield.

Dewey Swartbooi’s side has secured six consecutive bonus-point victories, scoring an average of 60 points a game while conceding an average of 11. In the previous round, Tuks hammered local rivals TUT 81-10.

Swartbooi told @Rugby365com that Tuks are determined to regain their Varsity Cup status, and will not rest until they have achieved that objective.

Going by the results, they are the clear favourites for a first-place finish – and automatic promotion.

That outcome may not seem like the end of the world for the Madibaz, who would have a subsequent shot at promotion via a playoff against the seventh-placed Varsity Cup side.

Manuel, however, feels that the Madibaz stand a better chance of beating Tuks in Pretoria.

“This is the final,” he said.

“If we lose and finish second, we will have the chance to qualify via the promotion-relegation game, but that wouldn’t be ideal for us.

“When you’re playing in the Varsity Shield, and then suddenly you come up against a Varsity Cup side that has been operating at a greater intensity week-in and week-out, you’re going to be at a disadvantage.

“Tuks have a great record in the Varsity Cup, but like us, they have been playing in the Varsity Shield against Shield teams. We’d far prefer that challenge.”

 

As the record suggests, no side has managed to match Tuks’ power up front, or to contain their dangerous backs.

Manuel admitted that it’s a tough ask for the Madibaz.

“We’ll have to deal with that pack, and we’ll have to kick strategically to ensure that we don’t gift their dangerous back three possession.

“They’re a very different beast, and I’ve told the boys to expect something different this week.”

At the same time, the Madibaz have some reason to feel confident in their own abilities, having won six matches in a row.

“We’ve been building this system for two years, and it’s been pleasing to see how the guys have settled into it,” said Manuel.

“Everybody knows their job, and how it connects to the rest of the team. We are stronger together, and against Tuks, we will have the chance to show what we can do.

“You have to control the controllables. I’ve heard that there will be a big crowd at Tuks at 15.00 this Friday, and we can’t do anything about that.

“What we can control is our own effort as well as the trust in the game plan. We’ve spoken this week about finding an extra 1%, because that will be needed to beat a side like Tuks.”

@rugby365com

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