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Tuks: 'Restore the Pride'

SPOTLIGHT: The recently relegated Tuks outfit is leaving nothing to chance in their quest to regain Varsity Cup status and repair the team’s reputation.

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The University of Pretoria’s record in the Varsity Cup speaks for itself.

Since the advent of the tournament, they have won a record-equalling five titles.

As many as 18 Tuks players have gone on to represent the Springboks, while seven – Vincent Koch, Manie Libbok, Franco Mostert, Marvin Orie, Handré Pollard, RG Snyman and Marco van Staden – won the World Cup with South Africa in France last year.

Tuks were at their peak in 2022, when Nico Luus’s charges beat Stellenbosch in the Final to claim a second-consecutive Varsity Cup title.

Thereafter, they endured a harrowing fall from grace, losing seven matches in a row and finishing the 2023 tournament in last place.

History was made for all the wrong reasons, as one of the traditional powerhouses of university rugby was relegated to the Varsity Shield.

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Since then, the coaches and players have done a lot of soul-searching.

They are desperate for Tuks to regain its Varsity Cup status – and sooner rather than later.

At the same time, they are wary of underestimating their Shield opponents.

This attitude was reflected in last week’s fixture in Alice, where Tuks romped to a 36-0 victory over the University of Fort Hare.

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“That first game was all about getting the ‘W’, after losing seven in a row last year,” Tuks coach Dewey Swartbooi told @rugby365com.

“That result will give the boys confidence, but they must know that the greater job is far from done.

“We’re under no illusions about what happened last season.

“We let the whole of Pretoria down by dropping out of the Varsity Cup.

“We’ve accepted responsibility for that, and now it’s about being positive and turning things around.

“We’ve set high standards for ourselves, and are aiming to take Tuks back into the Varsity Cup,” he added.

“At the same time, I’ve told the boys that it’s not going to be easy.

“We’re going to have to fight for a result in every game of this Shield campaign.”

Tuks have adopted a new motto this year.

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According to Swartbooi, the phrase ‘Restore the Pride’ relates to the quest for promotion in 2025 as well as a quest for respect.

“Those words are on our jersey.

“We speak about it all the time to remind ourselves about what’s at stake,” he said.

“We’re not just playing for ourselves, but for the club itself and all the players who came before – from greats like Wynand Claasen to the team that won back-to-back titles in 2021 and 2022. We owe it to them to get this team back into the Varsity Cup.”

It would be fair to assume that they have made the best possible start, having scored 36 points against UFH and conceded none. Ultimately, they have banked five log points from a potentially tricky away match, and sit at the top of the standings.

Swartbooi, however, insists that the team must improve if they are to realise their overriding goal.

“I told the guys it would be tough when we went down to Alice to play UFH, and the scoreline did not reflect the nature of the contest.

“That win will give the guys a boost after such a tough 2023 campaign, but they can’t afford to take their foot off the gas now.”

Tuks will host the Cape Peninsula University of Technology in Pretoria on Friday.

The game will be televised, and a wider audience will have the chance to see how much the team has improved since its relegation to the Shield, and whether they have what it takes to regain their seat at the Varsity Cup table.

“We have a great deal of respect for CPUT, who have won the Shield a couple of times in the past,” noted Swartbooi. “They will see this game in Pretoria as an opportunity to make history.

“As far as we’re concerned, it’s like a final. We’re treating every game like a final this year. Winning is all that matters at this stage.”

Varsity Shield standings after round one

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