CAPE TOWN - Former champions Tuks or Maties will top the Varsity Cup standings after Monday's final round of round-robin matches.
Tuks of Pretoria lead the nine-team standings on 29 points ahead of their clash with defending champions Pukke at the Fanie du Toit Sport Grounds in Potchefstroom, while second-placed Maties of Stellenbosch (29 points) welcome much-improved UJ to the Danie Craven Stadium (7pm kickoff, live on SuperSport).
UJ lost their opening two fixtures, but the students from the University of Johannesburg have gone on to win five in a row and are now in third place on 25 points and in with a chance of progressing to the next round of one-off knockout matches featuring the top four teams.
Pukke (18) are back in fourth and the only other side in the running for a semi-final berth. Shimlas of Bloemfontein, the 2015 champions, have completed their season back in fifth, while the remaining four sides have nothing to play for other than pride.
Tuks haven’t lifted the trophy since winning back-to-back titles in 2013, both times beating three-time winners Maties, who haven’t tasted success for six years.
The two look odds-on favourites to contest the final.
Tuks showed their class on their home field last Monday when they came from a 23-0 first-quarter deficit to score 53 unanswered points and easily beat the Ikey Tigers.
“I was happy with the way the boys came back into the contest after falling well behind due to our sloppy play on attack,” said Tuks coach Pote Human.
“But a new challenge awaits us in the form of Pukke. We want those five points, we get them and we will stay top of the log and host a semi-final and final if we make it to the final game.”
Maties have won six on the trot, the only loss (9-13) registered at Tuks in the opening round. Last time out they saw off a game, winless CUT outfit 73-44.
“We mustn’t be giving away easy points when in the ascendancy,” said Maties coach Hawies Fourie, “especially when it’s against the weakest team in the competition. But maximum points kept the pressure on the frontrunner.
“UJ come to us in red-hot form and we must be ready to meet fire with fire in order to come away with a win.”
Other Varsity Cup fixtures (home teams first): Wits v Ikeys; CUT v Madibas.