The FNB Varsity Cup presented by Steinhoff International will get off to a mouth-watering start on Monday with replays of both of last year's semifinals as part of the opening set of fixtures.
Three-time champions FNB Maties will host FNB UJ at the Danie Craven Stadium in Stellenbosch in the first fixture of the 2013 season, and with both teams fielding significantly different line-ups from the ones that did battle in their semifinal last year, there will be plenty to prove.
New Maties coach Chris Rossouw will want his side to back up their encouraging pre-season results with the kind of form that has seen them lose just two regular-season games at home in five years, whilst UJ boss Hugo van As will be equally keen to lay down an early marker.
Defending champions FNB UP-Tuks will travel to Potchefstroom to take on FNB NWU-Pukke, and coach Nollis Marais has taken no chances by naming a powerful side which contains no less than three junior world champions in centre William Small-Smith, flank Shaun Adendorff and lock Marvin Orie.
NWU-Pukke have enjoyed something of a revival in recent years under the stewardship of coach Hannes Esterhuizen, and they will be aware that there can be no greater statement than downing the defending champions in the opening round.
Down in Cape Town the FNB UCT Ikey Tigers will be seeking revenge against the FNB NMMU Madibaz in their Monte Taljaard trophy clash at the Green Mile.
The Madibaz took the trophy in dramatic style in Port Elizabeth last season, so they can expect a stern examination when they square off with Kevin Foote's team beneath Table Mountain.
Newcomers FNB Wits will make their Varsity Cup debut in front of their home crowd when they clash with a new-look FNB UFS-Shimlas outfit that have shown some formidable pre-season form under the guidance of new coach Michael Horak.
The former Cheetahs defence coach has brought in Hendro Scholtz and Barry Goodes as his assistants this year as the Free State side look to improve on a disappointing campaign last year which saw them fail to qualify for the semifinals.
However, they will face a fired-up Wits team that will be desperate to show that they can compete at this level after gaining promotion by winning the Varsity Shield last year.
Meanwhile, in the Varsity Shield on Monday, last year's Wooden Spoonists the FNB UKZN Impi will be looking to defend their spot at the top of the standings when they host the FNB CUT Ixias in Pietermaritzburg.
The Impi secured a morale-boosting victory over FNB TUT in Pretoria on Thursday, leaving the former Varsity Cup outfit without a win in two games this season.
The TUT Vikings will travel to Alice on Monday to face the FNB Fort Hare Blues who will be looking to bounce back from their opening defeat to the Impi in front of their passionate home crowd.
FNB Varsity Cup fixtures - Monday, February 4;
FNB Maties v FNB UJ, Danie Craven Stadium - 4.45pm (TV)
FNB NWU-Pukke v FNB UP-Tuks, Fanie du Toit Sports Grounds - 7pm (TV)
FNB UCT v FNB NMMU, UCT Rugby Fields - 7pm
FNB Wits v FNB Shimlas, Wits Rugby Stadium - 7pm
FNB Maties: 15 Ryan Nell, 14 Clearance Khumalo, 13 Mark Hodgskiss, 12 Louis Jordaan, 11 JP Lewis, 10 JH Potgieter, 9 James Alexander, 8 Reuben Johannes, 7 Jurg Streicher, 6 Helmut Lehmann (captain), 5 Reniel Hugo, 4 Wilhelm van der Sluys, 3 Brendan Pitzer, 2 Neethling Gericke, 1 Alistair Vermaak.
Replacements: 16 Charl de Villiers 17 Niel Oelofse 18 Jan de Klerk 19 Lungelo Chonco 20 Jean Nel 21 Dean Grant 22 Craig Barry 23 Boeta Kleinhans.
FNB UJ: 15 Kobus De Kock, 14 Tommy Damba, 13 Bradley Moolman, 12 Divan Van Zyl, 11 Chrysander Botha, 10 Guy Cronje, 9 Jacques Pretorius, 8 RJ Liebenberg, 7 Justin Wheeler (captain), 6 Steph De Witt, 5 David Antonites, 4 Shane Kirkwood, 3 Njabulo Mkize, 2 AJ Le Roux, 1 Wessel Du Rand.
Replacements: 16 Jan-Ras Van Der Linde, 17 Ewald Van Der Westhuizen, 18 Fabian Booysen, 19 Kobus Porter, 20 Lukas Van Zyl, 21 Luan Steenkamp, 22 Lincoln Koopman, 23 Wiseman Kamanga.
FNB NWU-Pukke: 15 Hoffman Maritz, 14 Rowayne Beukman, 13 Hennie Skorbinski, 12 Johan Deysel, 11 Luther Obi, 10 Gerhard Nortier, 9 Tiaan Dorfling, 8 SJ Niemand, 7 Ernie Strydom, 6 Robey Labuschagne, 5 Victor Kruger (captain), 4 Luvuyiso Lusaseni, 3 Martin Dreyer, 2 JC Oberholzer, 1 Henri Scharneck.
Replacements: 16 Marius Fourie, 17 Herman Basson, 18 Solly Sotsaka, 19 Molotsi Bouwer, 20 Jaco Grobler, 21 Sylvian Mahuza, 22 Wynand Olivier, 23 Arno Ebersohn.
FNB UP-Tuks: 15 Riaan Britz, 14 Vainon Willis, 13 William Small-Smith, 12 Burger Odendaal, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Willie Du Plessis, 9 Danie Faasen, 8 Jono Ross (captain), 7 Mike Williams, 6 Shaun Adendorff, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Juan-Pierre Mostert, 3 Hencus Van Wyk, 2 Jaco Visagie, 1 Sabelo Nhlapo.
Replacements: 16 Sidney Tobias, 17 Christoph Gouws, 18 Schalk Van Heerden, 19 Nardus Van der Walt, 20 Emile Temperman, 21 Tian Schoeman, 22 Christopher Bosch, 23 Andrew Beerwinkel.
Referee: Pro Legoete
FNB UCT: 15 Lihleli Xoli, 14 Richard Stewart, 13 Liam Bax, 12 David Ambunya, 11 Paul Cohen, 10 Ross Jones-Davies, 9 Liam Slatem, 8 Josh Katzen, 7 Derek Asbun, 6 Kyle Kriel, 5 Jacobus Odendaal (captain), 4 James Kilroe, 3 Shane Meier, 2 Neil Rautenbach, 1 Sti Sithole.
Replacements: 16 Dayne Jans, 17 Digby Webb, 18 Jason Klaasens, 19 Darryl Ndjadila, 20 Rick Schroeder, 21 Nicolas Loizedes, 22 Justin Coles, 23 Oliver Kebble.
FNB NMMU: 15 Jarred Buys, 14 Mayibuye Ndwandwa, 13 Lonwabo Ntleki, 12 Xolani Mnisi, 11 Mthangala Skosana, 10 Justin Van Staden, 9 Dwayne Kelly, 8 Timothy Agaba Tevk, 7 Marius Oosthuizen, 6 Simphiwe Shabangu, 5 Louis Fourie, 4 Mzwanele Zito, 3 Dexter Fahey, 2 Albertus De Swardt, 1 Roy Godfrey (captain).
Replacements: 16 Ulrich Pretorius, 17 Brenden Olivier, 18 Schalk Oelofse, 19 Stefan Willemse, 20 Lesley-Dean Luiter, 21 Gerhardus Smith, 22 Logan Basson, 23 Elrich Kock.
Referee: Jonathan Kaplan
FNB Wits: 15 Bronson Lange, 14 Jacques Erasmus, 13 Kayde Fisher, 12 Jared Meyer, 11 Riaan Arends, 10 Latiume Fosita, 9 Brent Crossley, 8 Jason Fraser, 7 Carel Greef, 6 Thato Mavundla, 5 Rinus Bothma, 4 Devin Montgomery (captain), 3 Phakamilu Zuma, 2 Piers Cooper, 1 Hannes Ludick.
Replacements: 16 Rory Anderson, 17 Luvuyo Pumpuma, 18 Shai Korb, 19 Charles Baggot, 20 Mathew Torrance, 21 Gregory Blom, 22 Nkuli Gamede, 23 Katlego Kgama.
FNB UFS-Shimlas: 15 Marco Mason, 14 Maphutha Dolo, 13 Robbie Van Schalkwyk, 12 Reinhardt Erwee, 11 JJ De Klerk, 10 Francois Du Toit, 9 Kevin Luiters, 8 Niell Jordaan, 7 Freddie Ngoza, 6 Tyron Schultz, 5 JC Astle, 4 Teboho Mohoje (captain), 3 Nick Schornet, 2 Wickus Deysel, 1 Schalk Van Der Merwe.
Replacements: 16 Jacques Du Toit, 17 Charles Marais, 18 Fanie Van Der Walt, 19 Erik Le Roux, 20 Hlanlha Hlongwane, 21 Pieter-Steyn De Wet, 22 Divandre Strydom, 23 Carl Van Heerden.
Referee: Eduan Nel
FNB Varsity Shield fixtures – Monday, February 4:
FNB UFH v FNB TUT, Davidson Rugby Stadium - 7pm
FNB UKZN v FNB CUT, Peter Booysen Sports Park - 7pm
Bye: FNB UWC
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