Eight teams will start their quest for Varsity Cricket glory as the third edition of Varsity Cricket gets underway in Potchefstroom.
Four classic matches will see cricket fans stream in to show their university colours as they aim to support their university’s most loved cricketers.
A triple header will start the tournament off with a bang, as the action will be coming thick and fast on three cricket grounds simultaneously.
First up, hosts NWU Pukke will take on defending champions UP-Tuks at 14:30 in a repeat of last year’s semi-final at Senwes Park, which promises to be an intriguing contest. At the same time NMMU’s Madibaz will face UJ, while Maties take on last year’s surprise package, UWC.
Kovsies will also take on UCT in the final match of the day at Senwes Park from 18:00, which could turn into a thriller of a match. Neither of these teams are tournament favourites, but this could be the start of something exciting for either team.
Match 1: NWU Puk vs Tuks (14:30) at Senwes Park
The team on everybody’s lips this year will obviously be hosts, NWU Pukke, who will have the most support from the throngs of fans who can literally watch cricket on their doorstep. Pukke have now won a number of major Varsity Sports titles, recently adding the Varsity Cup to that list, but Varsity Cricket eludes them. Their coaches, Conrad de Swart and Niel Bredenkamp will want to change that fact.
Wihan Lubbe will once again captain NWU Pukke and his experience will be vital in the top order to get his side off to a good start against the defending champion, Tuks.
‘We are all really excited for the first match today against Tuks,’ he said. ‘We are all excited for the tournament in general. I don’t think we are looking at this match any differently than we would prepare for any other cricket match. Our club championship win against them last year was huge, and this will give us momentum.’
According to Lubbe the team is confident and ready to bring the Varsity Cricket trophy to Potch.
‘The team looks a bit different this year, as opposed to the previous year, but the other teams have also lost some players. T20 cricket is unpredictable and anyone can win on the day, but I feel we have a really good chance to not only win the first game but the tournament as a whole,’ said Lubbe who was in an upbeat and positive mood for the match.
Tuks are also ready to make it a hat-trick of wins this year, with the red and blue machine in fine fettle ahead of the first match. Tuks have a new coach in Kruger van Wyk and new captain at the helm and this combination might just be what injects some new energy into an already dominant team.
Tony de Zorzi will captain the team, and the former SA U19 captain will use all his big match experience to get his team over the line with the bat in hand. De Zorzi is one of the country’s most exciting young prospects who will want to star in this tournament.
Expect a close encounter where one good powerplay or piece of brilliance with either bat, ball or in the field can turn the game in an instant.
Match 2: Madibaz vs UJ (14:30 at NWU-Puk Oval)
This promises to be an interesting encounter between two of the dark horses of this year’s tournament. UJ are always on the cusp of a final spot, but somehow always manage to lose by a small margin, with things not always going their way. Focus will be a key aspect this year for Richard Das Neves’ team and under captain, Neels Bergh and the experienced Ryan Rickleton, good things are about to happen. Also keep an eye out for Ndumiso Mvelase who was recently selected for the CSA National Academy High Performance squad.
The Madibaz will look to their standout captain, Matthew Christensen to score the runs and inspire with his calm demeanour on the field. Paceman, Solo Nqweni might also be one of the finds of the tournament if he adds accuracy to his youthful exuberance, Expect a close match, with UJ going in as favourites by a small margin.
Match 3: Maties vs UWC (14:30 at Ibbies Oval)
Maties will be looking to place themselves on the top of the Varsity Cricket pile once again after enduring a disappointing tournament last time around. Last year, the men from Stellenbosch failed to reach the semi-finals despite having bags of talent at their disposal. On the other side of the coin, are the University of Western Cape, who made a strong statement last year and surprised everyone with a final spot against Tuks. This year UWC will want to go one step further and what better way than to start their trophy bid off against their Cape neighbours in a Cape derby. Maties, Kyle Simmonds will once again want to impress with his all-round skills, while UWC’s Zubayr Hamza will look to keep the scoreboard ticking over.
Match 4: UFS- Kovsies vs UCT (18:00 at Senwes Park)
The final match of the day will be as intriguing as it will be interesting, as two of the unknown quantities this year need to get a big win under their belts. These two sides were the wooden spoonists in 2016 and 2017 they will want to avoid position 7 or 8. A win will go a long way for the men from the Mother City or the City of Roses to get their campaign on the right track.