The competition kicks off with two mini-tournaments involving
four teams each at Tuks' LC de Villiers Stadium and the Nelson
Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) respectively.
Matches against two Russian sides on Wednesday, as well as a
four-chukka practice game against the Shimlas in Bloemfontein on
Friday and then two matches next week against the SWD Eagles - last
year's losing finalists in the Currie Cup First Division - will
ensure Tukkies coach Freddie Grobler, will know exactly what his
best combinations are come the first round.
"These warm-up matches will be followed by a week's training at
home before we play NWU-Pukke," said Grobler, who has a few gains -
but unavoidably also a number of losses - from last year's side
that somehow just didn't gel well enough to seriously challenge for
honours despite a semi-final place.
"It's imperative that we start better this year," Grobler said.
Tukkies again play the very strong NWU-Pukke in their first
match. This time, however, it will be in Pretoria - and Tukkies
will at least be able to play their evening matches at home after
their flood lights have been upgraded sufficiently for TV purposes.
Pukke last year lost a tough final at Coetzenburg against the
Maties who retained the title they won in the first year of the
competition in 2008, and also outscored Hamiltons by six tries to
three when they went down in the national club championships final.
Pukke are a class act - but they have lost their inspirational
and longstanding captain Willem van de Wal, who has moved to
"Of course we'll miss him," said coach Rudy Joubert. "It's
never easy when you lose you're captain. But I'm confident.
"We've had a good pre-season training period, and although
there are a few niggles we have looked good in our training this
"There are a few gains, and we'll start getting closer to the
final squad after our trials this weekend. We end of with a
practice game against the Leopards on January 23."
The University of Johannesburg (UJ) have some exciting newcomers
and also a nucleus of the side that never really fired last season,
but put up some outstanding performances.
"We've been working hard," said coach Hugo van As. With UJ
again fielding what Van As calls a semi-professional side, the
Johannesburg outfit simply has to start off well.
They will have a practice run against the Shimlas in Kroonstad
UJ play Tshwane University for Technology (TUT) in the first
round and then return to LC de Villiers to play Tukkies the
It won't be easy to win both encounters - and they desperately
need to collect more than the two bonus points of last year with
only TUT having a worse record in this respect.
TUT, won't be the walkover they were last year when they were
winless in the competition, vows their coach Jimmy Watt.
"We were poor in the Varsity Cup but picked up some momentum
thereafter and played some good rugby in the Carlton Cup."
Good enough, he may have added, to make the semi-finals of the
Carlton Cup after a good run towards the end.
"Our preparation has been better. We've got some exciting new
youngsters, from the Bulls and elsewhere, to bolster the existing
squad and things are looking up.
"I'm confident the guys will build on our momentum towards the
end of the last season.
The first-round matches on February 1 are:
At LC de Villiers: TUT v UJ, Tuks v NWU-Pukke
At NMMU: Shimlas v UCT, NMMU v Maties