Ikey Tigers fall in Varsity Cup final, but leave with individual accolades

03 May 2024 | Story Kamva Somdyala. Photos Nasief Manie. Read time 4 min.
Ikey Tigers player Ntokozo Makhaza is the 2024 Varsity Cup player of the tournament.
Ikey Tigers player Ntokozo Makhaza is the 2024 Varsity Cup player of the tournament.

It wasn’t meant to be once again for the Ikey Tigers in the coveted Varsity Cup after losing 42–45 in the final against the University of the Free State on Monday, 22 April, in Bloemfontein.

After stunning North-West University a week before in the semi-final, the Ikeys got a chance to contest for the trophy for the third time in four years, in what would be a fairytale ending to the season, having last won it in dramatic fashion in 2014.

Going into the final, they had won five of their regular season eight matches; losing two and securing a draw in one. They had managed to accumulate 298 points, while conceding 165. They scored 36 tries going into the final.

The season – in which the Ikeys finished fourth on the log after regular games – ended with individual wins for some players, as Ntokozo Makhaza established himself as the competition’s all-time record point scorer. What’s more, he was awarded the overall “player that rocks” at the conclusion of the tournament. Fellow teammate Enos Ndiao was named the “forward that rocks”.

The Ikeys recorded a stunning 91–9 victory against the University of the Western Cape.

The final featured 11 tries and came down to a missed conversion and a match-winning penalty after the 80th minute in what was a pulsating final which swung one way, and another during periods of the game.

Offering his reflections, head coach, Tom Dawson-Squibb, said the season was an “incredible experience” but took stock of not finishing with the gold medal. “The currency in sport is trophies and, in that currency, we’re poor. The currency in life is connections and, in that currency, we’re rich.”

The team had an opportunity to connect a week after the final and Dawson-Squibb was enamoured to see the strong bond that still exists among the players. “I really hope the university sees the power of bringing people together and what happens when they reach for goals they didn’t think were possible. We’re grateful for what we had this season. We wish we could have won, and I wish for the rugby club to grow from strength to strength. Thank you very much to everyone for their support,” said Dawson-Squibb.

Three Ikeys players – Adam de Waal, Asad Moos and Joshua Boulle – are currently representing the Junior Springboks at the inaugural U20 Rugby Championship happening in Australia.

Tackle safety

On the safety front, SA Rugby praised referees, coaches, and players for embracing the new tackle height laws that were introduced to the community game in South Africa this year.

The changes were announced in December last year, and the Varsity Cup was the first prominent competition in South Africa to use these laws. According to detailed averaged match data, the number of penalties for high tackles decreased from 14.5 per round to only 7.5 towards the end of the league phase of the competition, SA Rugby recently announced.

“We’d like to thank and congratulate all coaches and players who have actively worked hard on correct, safe, and effective tackle technique,” said Rian Oberholzer, CEO of SA Rugby.

“In the same breath, I would also like to thank all the match officials for enforcing the changes. Projects such as these don’t come without teething problems and although we are aware of issues in some provinces, these are by far in the minority.

“All involved in the Varsity Cup have shown what can be achieved with a positive approach. Apart from fewer penalties for high tackles, and without having properly interrogated all the data yet, preliminary observations are that there appears to be fewer concussions in this year’s tournament, which is exactly what we were hoping to achieve.”

Ikey Tigers 2024 results:

  • vs Shimlas: won 38–32
  • vs Maties: lost 10–15
  • vs UJ: won 32–21
  • vs CUT: won 44–7
  • vs Wits: drew 33–33
  • vs UWC: won 91–9
  • vs NWU: lost 18-30
  • semi-final vs NWU: won 32–18
  • final vs Shimlas: lost 42-45

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