Spicy start to Varsity Cup

The Varsity Cup is certainly not won in February, but one thing looks certain – it is not going to be a two horse race between the two Cape Universities, with Shimlas producing arguably the best performance of the first round of games.

The Bloem boys, previously winless in Cape Town, destroyed the error ridden defending champion Ikey Tigers 38-10 – claiming a four-try bonus point in the process.

Shimlas led 18-5 at half-time, scoring two tries in each half, with their big pack and clinical defence winning them the game. The Ikeys, going 13 points down early in the game to the sheer physicality of the Shimlas, fought back well to create plenty try-scoring opportunities, but just could not hold onto the ball. It was a mistake fest of note and coach Kevin Foote will be hoping that the early-season rust does not linger any longer than it has …

Shimlas right-wing Nico Scheepers kicked seven from seven on a relatively windless day on the Green Mile (not a common occurrence) and it was the Kovsies who were smiling the broadest after the opening match of the 2012 tournament.

45 km’s up the N2, Western Cape rivals Maties began their 2012 campaign in the complete opposite fashion – with a 52-2 thrashing of The ominously hapless TUT.

Maties scored seven tries to nil, with giant tighthead prop Os Hamman getting two, and lock Grant Hattingh sneaking a hat-trick … It’s not often you see the big tighties stealing the limelight from the backline peacocks like that!

Centre Wessel Coetzee walked off with the official Man of the Match honours, but coach Chean Roux would have been happy with his pack’s powerful showing on the night.

Another powerful display worth noting was Tukkies’ clinical 23-8 win over UJ in Pretoria. Tuks led 18-0 at half-time, thanks to first-half tries by Hayden Groepes and Franco Mostert, with captain Jono Ross scoring their third try in the second half.

A late try from JR Esterhuizen accounted for UJ’s only points on the night – last year’s losing semifinalists having been well and truly outplayed.

And in PE, the Pukke opened their account with a hard-fought 26-16 win over the Madibaz, the visitors having led 26-8 at half-time, but losing the second half 8-0 against determined opponents.

Pukke coach Hannes Esterhuizen would have been happy with his team’s four-try win, especially after the poor start they made in last season’s tournament, but their scoreless second half would have been a slight concern for him.

I noted with interest in the two games I watched, that the new scoring system seemed to have very little impact on how the teams approached the game. Shots at goal were still taken from penalties awarded in the opposition 22, and more importantly, there seemed to be no increase in negative play from teams defending in their own 22. Perhaps this will change as teams become more familiar with the system, and games get a little more competitive …

An incident in the Shimlas game that had me and a few others (based on the Twitter steam) fuming was how TMO JC Fortuin manipulated a situation that could have resulted in a try for UCT. On field referee Jason Jafta asked Fortuin if he could find a reason not to award a try that had seemingly been scored by placing the ball at the base of the pole protector. Instead, Fortuin answered as if he had been asked if it was a try or no try, and disallowed the try. It may seem trivial, but the former suggests that the referee is fairly confident that a try has been scored, but just wants to check for anything he might have missed.

And instead of remaining strong on his original question, Jafta was bullied into accepting Fortuin’s decision that he did not think a try had been scored based on the TV footage. That is poor form, and perhaps at this level (Andre Watson has said that they use the Varsity Cup to develop referees), the only question allowed should be “Try or no try?” …

JC Fortuin


  1. Hi Tank, your former Varsity will need to brush up on their defensive efforts: it is not often that 2 out of 4 tries are scored on the blindside – it seems that the defensive system needs to be looked at seriously !!
    The Tigers had quite a number of scoring opportunities with the 9’s knock-on being one. It’s a pity that the flyhalf doesn’t have more speed. He made some good line-breaks but just did not have the speed to score. Their handling cost them big time !! I’m sure the ball must have been slippery because of the players’ perspiration, but it was the same for both teams.
    The Tigers will have to do a lot of work on their lineouts though – you can’t afford to give away so much possession !
    I think it is going to be a difficult road for the boys from UCT to defend their title, but like you said the Varsity Cup is not won in Feb

    1. Yep Charles, plenty for the Ikeys to work on … I am not writng them off just yet, but they are going to have to up their game a lot to be competitive

  2. The question asked was,”Can you give me ANY REASON why I cannot award the try?” Fortuin’s reason was simple,”It is not clear that the player scored a try”. I don’t see any bullying in that. Jafta caused his own problems because he did not know what to do when he received Fortuins response to his question. As happens so many times when the TMO is brought into the picture,doubt starts to occur. Maybe in situations like this the decision must refer back to the ref. What this did show once again is that refs are to quick to go “upstairs”. Assistant refs are even worse.

    1. Two things Neil … Fortuin was not asked if it was a try or not, he was asked if he could see a reason not to award the try. So his answer, even if not seeing proof that a try was scored, should have been “No, I cannot see a reason not to award the try” as he would have been looking for a knock on or the ball being short. Fortuin then bullied Jafta into his last decision being a penalty to Ikeys, even when Jafta had mentioned that he was going to award the try … As you say, Jafta should have been strong enough to go with his call. I am a fan of using technology, but it needs to be according to a system that makes sense to refs, players and spectators alike

      1. I am with you on that decision Tank – it could have made quite a difference at the end of the game: I’m not saying that UCT would have won, but instead of chasing the game they might have gone for a penalty or two at the posts to narrow the gap (had the try been awarded).
        Getting back to the “try”: when you look at the “try” in normal speed, it looked indeed as if a try had been scored. At this stage it’s all speculation but the TMOs and referees need to get their act together.
        Another matter: we chatted briefly about the scrums a while ago. I did not see any significant change in the engagement sequence etc. What was evident is the fact that the props were not allowed to let their heads make contact before the scrum engaged. It seems that the packs need to stay steady, with no movement at all, before the “engage” call – I hope it makes sense of what I am trying to get across (in my 2nd language).
        Lastly: ditto about the 2 “heavies” scoring 5 of the tries of Maties!! The TIGHT FIVE CAN INDEED CONTRIBUTE !!

        1. You are right re the scrums. Cadence has changed slightly, to have a similar gap between all the words, props heads cannot touch before engagement, front rows must connect squarely, and hit has to come from the front row, not from the 8th man pushing the whole pack in … Still slightly messy I thought, and it only gets worse at S15 level …

  3. Tank – regarding technology to rule out unfair errors – what was your take on TMO’s decision to award Shimla’s 4th try. Wasn’t he allowed to comment on the Shimla’s knock-on before the “shambles”, or did he just not rewind the tape far enough back?

    1. Hey Freddy. Tradition dictates that the TMO does not comment on activity before the tryline, so based on what went on behind the tryline, and given that the question was try or no try, i thought that was OK …

  4. Hi Tank – allied to your comment above, re responsibilities and jurisdiction of TMO’s. I was looking forward to hearing what you had to say about another TMO issue in the game – my earlier question seems to have been “moderated”.

    It wasn’t my intention to hit on the ref but am truly interested in where TMO’s are allowed to give input. The knock-on I referred to was seen “live” yesterday evening and I haven’t yet had any benefit of TV replays – perhaps I’m mistaken and there wasn’t a knock by a Shimla in front of the try line? If that is the case then all’s well but would still be interested to hear if the TMO could have made the call if it was the case.

  5. I would be keen to see more involvement from the TMO – under guidelines of course. The S15 are going to trial a player being put on “Report” and that footage can then be used to determine sanction, but it will not be used during the game …

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