Varsity Rugby kicks off
The Varsity Rugby season will get underway on Monday when the first round of the FNB Varsity Shield presented by Steinhoff International kicks off.
Although the Varsity Cup competition only starts on Monday, February 4, with the Varsity Young Guns and Steinhoff Koshuisrugby Championship following suit on February 18, the Varsity Shield will get the ball rolling first with two matches that will both be televised live on Supersport One.
The first match of the bumper 2013 Varsity Rugby season, which will see 82 matches played across four different national competitions, will take place at the Peter Booysens Sports Park in Pietermaritzburg where the FNB UKZN Impi will take on the FNB Fort Hare Blues.
The Impi ended last season as Varsity Shield Wooden Spoonists, but they will be looking for a positive start to their 2013 campaign under new coach Shawn van Rensburg who is convinced that they have what it takes to compete with the top sides in the competition.
He commented: "We are setting our standards high this year, we have done our homework and recruited well so I am definitely looking forward to a great season.
"We have got some players from the Sharks Under-19 team that have joined us and we have got some of our players from last year that are still with us.
"We have trained and prepared well so we definitely want to be up there," added Van Rensburg.
His counterpart at Fort Hare Elliot Fana may have lost the services of some key players, but he knows that he will get nothing less than 100 percent commitment from his charges in Pietermaritzburg.
"There will be one or two guys who raise their hands and say 'I want to play rugby and this is how I want to live my life'," he said.
The second match on Monday evening will see former Springbok coach Peter de Villiers' FNB UWC side welcome former Varsity Cup outfit the FNB TUT Vikings to the UWC Sports Stadium in Bellville.
The Vikings were automatically relegated to the Shield last year after finishing last in the Varsity Cup, and with new coach Andre Eloff taking charge of an almost brand new squad this season they are hoping to make an impact from the word go.
"We are starting off with new momentum, we haven't got continuity at this stage but it suits us because we have got a young team - I think we have only got one guy older than 21," said Eloff.
With De Villiers at the helm, FNB UWC will be looking to make a big impression in front of their passionate home fans, and what better way to make a statement of intent than beating the newly-relegated Vikings.
De Villiers is looking forward to the challenge of moulding a team that can challenge for the title by the business end of the season.
"To me it is a challenge to do what I want there. The biggest challenge for me is to get the best out of the players, it is a different breed of players, a different challenge but it is still the same thing," he said.
FNB Varsity Shield fixtures - Monday, January 28;
FNB UKZN v FNB UFH, Peter Booysen Sports Park - 4.45pm (TV)
FNB UWC v FNB TUT, UWC Sport Stadium - 7pm (TV)
Bye: FNB CUT
FNB UKZN: 15 Jeandre Small, 14 Yandisa Mdolomba, 13 Hendrik Lategan, 12 Garath Meikle, 11 Mondli Ntshingila, 10 Heinrich Meyer, 9 Zander Engelbrecht, 8 Andre Greyvenstein, 7 Sanele Malwane, 6 Njabulo Zondi, 5 Dumani Dludla, 4 Corne Nieuwenhuizen, 3 Sizwe Khubeka, 2 Nicolas Du Plooy, 1 Leon Mulder.
Replacements: 16 Richard Sakhile, 17 Luciando Santos, 18 Gerrit Fourie, 19 Robert Warnock, 20 Jaco Potgieter, 21 Ngcebo Phungula, 22 Hendrik Groenewald, 23 Sanele Mweli.
FNB Fort Hare: 15 Khanyiso Komani, 14 Garth Van Rayner, 13 Lundi Ralarala, 12 Saneliso Ngoma, 11 Lithabile Mgwadleka, 10 Oliver Zono, 9 Anele Tsiko, 8 Nkosikhona Nofuma, 7 Billy Dutton (captain), 6 Onke Dubase, 5 Masixole David, 4 Mzwandile Yalezo, 3 Xola Mapapo, 2 Luzuko Nyabaza, 1 Lwando Mabenge.
Replacements: 16 Zuko Lerula, 17 Siyabulela Sijula, 18 Sibabalwe Tshoni, 19 Andile Makinana, 20 Khaya Siqoko, 21 Lutho Zatu, 22 Lwando Makhongolo, 23 Douglas Manyame.
Referee: Blake Beattie
FNB UWC: 15 Quade Langeveld, 14 Minenhle Mthethwa, 13 Kenwin Weiner, 12 Yondela Stampu, 11 Godlen Masimla, 10 Charl Van Vollenhoven, 9 Fredderick Muller, 8 Njabulo Ndlovu, 7 Juan-Paul Kellerman, 6 Jose Julies, 5 Methetheleli Fuzani, 4 Pallo Manuel, 3 Michael September, 2 Charlton Van Jaarsveld, 1 Kelvin De Bruyn.
Replacements: 16 Michael Mkhize, 17 Siphiwokuhle Bakeni, 18 Darren Luiters, 19 Samuel Borsah, 20 Denzel Willemse, 21 Donovan Williams, 22 Lubabalo Faleni, 23 Brent Fisher.
FNB TUT Vikings: 15 Paul Walters, 14 Thabo Mangena, 13 Zandre De Bruin, 12 Oswald Gibson, 11 Fanie Raseroka, 10 Morne Hugo, 9 Nico Smuts, 8 Barend Nordeje, 7 Tinus Van Wyk (captain), 6 Mandla Mdaka, 5 Gareth Bredenhann, 4 Isak Deetlefs, 3 Dylan Middleditch, 2 Adriaan Joubert, 1 Gerrit Van Gerwe.
Replacements: 16 Dawid Roux, 17 Riacardo Burger, 18 Armand Marshall, 19 Welile Ntozakhe, 20 Johannes Venter, 21 Anele Magubane, 22 Maulaba Mukendi, 23 Zandre Grobler.
Referee: Renier Vermeulen