The student circus is in town ..

So the rugby season got going good and proper with the Cape Town Tens, and now it’s Varsity Cup time …

I love the fact that the VC guys are up to trying new things, but I have my doubts about this new points system that will see drop goals and penalties downgraded to 2 points and conversions upgraded to 3 points. The drop goal devaluation I love! But why only reward tries scored close to the poles? Often the greatest tries, going through multiple phases, and rounded off by pacy wings, are scored out wide, yet they will now be worth less than a push over (or worse, a lucky intercept) try under the poles?

Also, in devaluing the penalty, in the obvious hope that teams will now go for tries rather than slotting penalties, a potential repercussion is that defending teams will just play more negatively, safe in the knowledge, that a penalty only delivers a 2 point reverse. One can only hope that referees will not be shy to issue yellow cards for professional fouls of this nature …

The tournament has been dominated by the Cape universities, something the manne from up North no doubt find rather galling … The obvious question is have these northern teams done enough to reverse the trend this year?.

I am not so sure … After a particularly unsatisfactory 2011, the Maties will be desperate to right the wrongs, and seem to have a bloody strong team with lots of Cup experience.

Under coach Chean Roux, they have some talented players at their disposal – especially at loose forward where new skipper Helmut Lehmann heads up a trio that also includes a Currie Cup player in Tertius Daniller (at No.8) and the talented Sam Mabombo in the No.6 jersey. And any team that can leave a talented player like Donald Stevens on the bench must be pretty damn strong!

Defending champs, the UCT Ikeys, will be playing the first match of 2012 – entertaining the Shimlas at the Green Mile in a repeat of one of last year’s semifinals – where the Ikeys triumphed 57-20. In fact, the Ikeys have never lost to the men from the Free State, and will be looking to maintain that record via and experienced and powerful tight five, and exciting backline that will no doubt revolve around flyhalf Nick Holten and Stormers contender Adrian Kritzinger.

I do like the look of Tukkies this year, though, and they will be contenders. Ex Ikey Grant Kemp will be donning the all important number 3 jersey, and in Clayton Blommetjies, Deon Helberg, Dabeon Draghoender, Hayden Groepes, Wesley Dunlop, Jono Ross and Okkie Kruger they have some exciting players with the necessary experience needed to win the close games …

Varsity Cup fixtures, team line-ups and predictions for Monday, Feb 6:

UCT v Shimlas
UCT Rugby Fields (Cape Town)
Kick-off: 5pm (Live on SuperSport One)

My prediction: UCT by 12

UCT: 15 Dillyn Leyds, 14 Richard Stewart, 13 Damian de Allende, 12 Adrian Kritzinger (vice-captain), 11 Mark Winter, 10 Nick Holton, 9 Nick Farrar, 8 Greg Mallett, 7 Graham Knoop, 6 Ntsolo Setlaba (captain), 5 Levi Odendaal, 4 Pallo Manuel, 3 Shane Meier, 2 Matt Page, 1 Wes Chetty.
Replacements: 16 Dayne Jans, 17 Francois van Wyk, 18 James Kilroe, 19 James Tatham, 20 Steve Wallace, 21 Michael Morris, 22 Nathan Nel, 23 Digby Webb.

Shimlas: 15 Shaun Davids, 14 Nico Scheepers, 13 Cameron Jacobs, 12 Rynhardt Erwee, 11 Robbie van Schalkwyk, 10 Erick Colyn, 9 Kevin Luiters, 8 Fanie van der Walt, 7 Oupa Nohoje, 6 Pieter Labuschagnè (captain), 5 JC Astle, 4 Joubert Horn, 3 Ian Potgieter, 2 PW van Vuuren, 1 Charles Marais.
Replacements: 16 JC van Wyk, 17 Kevin Stevens, 18 Wilken Heyns, 19 Armand Koster, 20 Pieter Rademan, 21 Franna du Toit, 22 Earl Snyman, 23 Carl van Heerden.


Tuks v UJ
Tuks Rugby Stadium (Pretoria)
Kick-off: 7pm (Live on SuperSport One)

My prediction: Tuks by 7

Tuks: 15 Clayton Blommetjies; 14 Deon Helberg, 13 Jerome Pretorius, 12 Dabeon Draghoender, 11 Hayden Groepes; 10 Wesley Dunlop, 9 Lohan Jacobs; 8 Jono Ross, 7 Jacques Verwey, 6 Okkie Kruger, 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Mike Williams, 3 Grant Kemp, 2 Zane Botha (captain), 1 Sabelo Nhlapo.
Replacements: 16 Jacques Momberg, 17 Juan Schoeman, 18 Jono Janse van Rensburg, 19 Lean Schwartz, 20 Clayton Stewart, 21 Willie du Plessis, 22 Riaan Britz, 23 Basil Short.

UJ: 15 Aubrey McDonald, 14 JR Esterhuizen, 13 Luan Steenkamp, 12 Divan van Zyl, 11 Andries Oosthuizen, 10 Guy Cronjé, 9 Jacques Pretorius, 8 Justin Wheeler (captain), 7 Wendal Wehr, 6 Johan van Deventer, 5 Sebastian de Chaves, 4 Shane Kirkwood, 3 Jaco Vermeulen, 2 Francois du Toit, 1 Heinrich Terblanche.
Replacements: 16 Shaun Malton, 17 Ruan Dreyer, 18 Marnus van Huyssteen, 19 Dylon Peterson, 20 Rudy Paige, 21 Adrian Vermeulen, 22 Chrysander Botha, 23 Njabulo Mkize.


Maties v TUT
Danie Craven Stadium (Stellenbosch)
Kick-off: 7pm

My prediction: Maties by 32

Maties: 15 Ryan Nell, 14 Dean Hammond, 13 Wessel Coetzee, 12 Louis Jordaan, 11 Tythan Adams, 10 André Kemp, 9 Boela Abrahams, 8 Tertius Daniller, 7 Helmut Lehmann (captain), 6 Sam Mabombo, 5 Hugo Kloppers, 4 Grant Hattingh, 3 Os Hamman, 2 Rob Herring, 1 Alistair Vermaak.
Replacements: 16 Alfred Ries, 17 Brummer Badenhorst, 18 Reniel Hugo, 19 JP Swanepoel, 20 Donald Stevens, 21 André Smith, 22 Clearance Khumalo, 23 Hein van der Merwe.

TUT: 15 Brahm du Preez, 14 Craig Pheiffer, 13 Rikus de Beer, 12 Hagen Munba, 11 Ruan van Loo, 10 Hansie Graaff, 9 Nico Smuts, 8 Wikus Botes, 7 Yves Basiya, 6 Ryno Coetzee, 5 Steph Nel, 4 Ewald Mare, 3 Dandre van der Westhuyzen, 2 Johan Pieterse (captain), 1 Coert van Gerve.
Replacements: 16 Zandre Grobler, 17 Nico van den Heever, 18 Gavin Engelbrecht, 19 Ryno Lopes, 20 Rhuwanne Pienaar, 21 Melcolm Griffiths, 22 Craig van Rooi, 23 Nathi Sethusse.

NMMU v Pukke
NMMU Stadium (Port Elizabeth)
Kick-off: 7pm

My prediction: Pukke by 2

NMMU: 15 Gerrit Smith, 14 Eckard Jacobs, 13 Quinton Crocker, 12 Howard Mnisi, 11 Mayibuye Ndwandwa, 10 Martin du Toit, 9 Anton Verster, 8 Jaco Swanepoel (captain), 7 Ulrich Pretorius, 6 Jaco Otto, 5 Mathew Lutge, 4 Mzwanele Zito, 3 Ross David-Anderson, 2 Martin Ferreira, 1 Roy Godfrey.
Replacements: 16 Kobus Greeff, 17 Phillip Nel, 18 Louis Fourie, 19 Thomasau Forbes, 20 Marlin Ruiters, 21 Bradley Kretzman, 22 Devon Lailvaux, 23 Gareth Hartley.

Pukke: 15 SW Oosthuizen, 14 Andrew van Wyk, 13 Hennie Scorbinski, 12 Joubert Engelbrecht (captain), 11 Joe Seerane, 10 Gerhard Nortier, 9 Tiaan Dorfling, 8 Spanner Pretorius, 7 Ernie Strydom, 6 Philip de Wet, 5 Victor Kruger, 4 Siyanda Ndlovu, 3 John-Roy Jenkinson, 2 JC Oberholzer, 1 Henry Scharneck.
Replacements: 16 Marius Fourie, 17 Zander de Kock, 18 Lodewyk Uys, 19 Siya Mdaka, 20 Andries Botha, 21 Ruan Jacobs, 22 Terswin Raubenheimer, 23 Mashudu Mafela.


Feel free to join the Front Row Grunt Varsity Cup prediction super pool on SuperBru!
Pool name: Front Row Grunt
Pool code: colariot

The 2012 skippers ...