FNB Varsity Cup 2021: Cape Coaches’ Corner

Varsity Sports, 17 March 2021

South Africa’s premier university rugby championships are back – and FNB Varsity Cup Head Coaches of the three Western Cape universities in the competition – the Maties of Stellenbosch University, the University of Cape Town’s Ikey Tigers and the University of the Western Cape (UWC) – open up ahead of the 2021 season.

The 2021 edition of the FNB Varsity Cup returns to our screens on 4 April 2021 – and for the first time, comprehensive broadcast coverage of FNB Varsity Shield matches will be included, too. 

Three Western Cape teams – reigning champions Maties from Stellenbosch University, the Ikey Tigers from the University of Cape Town and the University of the Western Cape – will form part of the 10-member competition (the fourth Western Cape university, Cape Peninsula University of Technology, will take part in the Varsity Shield instead)..

All the matches will be played in a secure bio-bubble at the University of Pretoria from 4 April to 24 May 2021. Or three bubbles, really – teams will arrive at Tuks, play three matches, and then depart for a break of almost two weeks. The playoffs, featuring the top four teams, will then take place in a fourth ‘bubble’ – with the venue still to be confirmed.

The FNB Varsity Cup is set to alternate with the FNB Varsity Shield during this 51-day period, with all 17 teams staying at the FNB Varsity Cup Village. Teams will leave and return to the Village between bubbles.


It has been exactly one year since the organizers took the decision to suspend all matches, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Teams are hungry to return to the field, and we checked in with the FNB Varsity Cup head coaches, and how they feel ahead of this year’s unique campaign.




Last year – Played: 5, Won: 5

Best FNB Varsity Cup finish – Champions (2008, 2009, 2010, 2018, 2019)


Head coach Drikus Hancke on …

Last year’s Covid-shortened campaign

“I was really proud of the players for winning all five matches last year. But we have a learning culture and there were a lot of lessons to take from those matches. Some of the guys who will play again this year would have gained some valuable experience and, of course, everyone is hungry to play rugby again. Like everyone, we feel something was taken away from us last year.”


Expectations for 2021

“I think this year’s Varsity Cup will be the most tightly contested in a while. There are a lot of good teams who will be well prepared. It will be weird not to have fans at the games, but we know they will be watching on TV. We are aiming to win the tournament but want to take it match by match and keep improving as the tournament progresses.”

Their squad

“A lot of our Young Guns [U20 players] from last year have come through, but we also have a lot of senior guys from last year who will play again in 2021. Our captain for this year’s campaign, [centre] David Brits, is very experienced and he and the other senior players have helped the youngsters during pre-season.”




Last year – Played: 6, Won: 3, Drew: 2, Lost: 1

Best FNB Varsity Cup finish – Champions (2011, 2014)


Head coach Tom Dawson-Squibb on …

Last year’s Covid-shortened campaign

“We thoroughly enjoyed last year’s campaign, which was the first for me and this UCT coaching group. We came into it with three main goals. We wanted to up our competitiveness and intensity through the way we train and work. I wanted to unshackle our players a bit and let them play with freedom, which is very much in the DNA of UCT rugby. And I wanted to get a really tight management group that could enjoy and challenge each other. I think we achieved those goals. We didn’t get close to our potential as a rugby team, though, and learned some lessons around the fact you must never forget the basics. You’ve got to have a solid set-piece and defense that turns up every game, and an organized kicking game. At times, we just took our eye off the ball when it came to those basics.”


Expectations for 2021

“Tuks and Maties are always favourites in the Varsity Cup, as the two strong, well-resourced universities. However, I think you’re disingenuous as a coach if you don’t talk about trying to win a competition in which you’re playing. My expectations are that we must compete to win, while ensuring that our rugby programme makes players better. I want guys to sit on their stoep when they are 70 having a brandy and coke, or sparkling water, and look back and say, “Those were some of the most incredible times of my life”. We want to win every game and win the trophy, but if we lose to a team that is better than us, then so be it.”

Their squad

“When the Stormers played that internal match between the Dassies and Penguins last September, I did a count – and there were 15 players who were eligible for Maties’ 2021 Varsity Cup squad and just one for UCT. We’ve lost some really big players in our pack, including [flanks] Nama Xaba, Busanda Mabena and [lock] Dave Meihuizen, and a substantial number of backs, especially outside backs. So, we’ve moved one of our scrum halfs, Liam Kloosman, to wing, and will bring through a couple of other outside backs this season. [Centre] Evardi Boshoff has joined us from NWU. He’s a really exciting, highly skillful player with a big career ahead of him. So, we have an exciting, if not star-studded, group of players. Last year, [flanks] Liam Greenhalgh and Niel Otto were co-captains. This year, Liam will captain the team and have a strong leadership group around him.”




Last year – Played: 5, Won: 1, Lost: 4

Best FNB Varsity Cup finish – 9th on log (2019)


Head coach Paul Treu on …

Last year’s Covid-shortened campaign

“Lionel Langenhoven took over from Chester [Williams] last year under exceedingly difficult circumstances [as interim head coach] and he remains part of our coaching team as scrum coach. Lionel had a lot to deal with and unfortunately, the results didn’t go their way, although they did beat Shimlas in Bloemfontein. We’ve since implemented a new system, culture, standards and high-performance programme at UWC.”


Expectations for 2021

“Our immediate goal is to stay in the Varsity Cup, as the bottom two teams on the combined 2021-2022 log will be relegated to the Varsity Shield. Our obvious concern is the tight five as UWC have traditionally been targeted at the set-piece by other universities. It’s something we have worked on, but it won’t be resolved in this campaign, we’re taking a long-term approach to bolstering our tight five. We have done as much as we can from coaching and scientific perspectives to prepare the players for this campaign. Player recovery will be important during the tournament and you don’t want to overload players with too much detail in between games.”

Their squad

“We are very fortunate to have a good group of senior players, including [centre] Lyle Hendricks, [lock] Pieter-Steyl Swanepoel, [hooker] Jacques van Zyl, [prop] Justin Theys and [wing] Brandon de Kock. We also have two 19-year-old Western Province-contracted players who will start studying at UWC this year, [hooker] Lukhanyo Vokozela and [prop] Lamla Nunu. We’d like to get more youngsters like them to come to UWC so we can build a sustainable system and programme.”