By Bronwyn White
This article is exclusive to the Online Edition 2 of VARSITY News.
The Ikey Tigers secured a less-than-decisive victory over newcomers UWC in Round 1, before being steamrolled by the Maties maroon machine on their own Green Mile in Round 2. The boys rallied credibly to trounce UJ in Round 4. They scored a magnificent flurry of tries in Round 5, making a mockery of the UFS Shimlas defence – unfortunately, their own wasn’t much better, and they handed the Shimlas not only a win but a bonus log point. A lacklustre showing against NWU Pukke in Round 6 left the Ikeys in fifth place on the log, four log points behind the Shimlas.
This left them needing to win all three of the remaining rounds in order to reach the playoffs. A Round 7 clash with Wits in Johannesburg looked to be just a minor bump in the road – after all, those kudu-heads had lost to practically everyone else. But Monday night did not play out as expected for anyone. In the Bloemfontein equivalent of Maties vs Ikeys, the CUT underdogs clawed a 38-35 win out of the significantly higher-ranked Shimlas. The Pukke lost to Tuks (predictable) by a humiliating 0-28 (definitely not expected – NWU was only one spot behind Tuks on the log!) UJ was trounced by bottom-of-the-log UWC, who secured an impressive 29-17 home victory. And the Ikeys conceded defeat at the hands of Wits. By one point. One. Single. Point.
The loss to Wits has put UCT’s chances of making the playoffs, into the realm of divine intervention. We now have to rise above both Shimlas and CUT. In all likelihood, the Ikey Tigers will cling grimly to their spot in the middle of the log, perhaps clawing back 5thplace from CUT, who will probably lose to the Pukke in Round 8. And while it’s an understatement to say that the Shimlas are unlikely to overcome the Maties in Round 8, they can probably handle UJ in Round 9. Even if they don’t, the Ikeys would still need to take on a Tuks side that is determined to hoist the trophy in 2019 and defeat them on their home turf. And that would make Round 8 even more surprising than Round 7.
Discouraged Ikeys fans can only hope that the boys will keep their heads up regardless, and fight through Rounds 8 and 9 as though they were fighting for a spot in the final. Part of the beauty of sports is that victory is never certain, even for a seemingly invincible side; you’re not defeated until you admit defeat. And besides, there’s some comfort to be had from the performance of the UCT U20s in the Young Guns tournament: right now, they’re 4th on the log and look set to make the playoffs.
FNB Tuks vs FNB Ikeys will be live on Supersport on Monday 25thMarch at 16:45. The Ikeys clubhouse (on the Green Mile) will be screening the game.