KATLEGO PHEEHA

With two major titles won, last year was TuksRugby’s most successful season ever.

Tuks started the season on a high note by winning the 2012 FNB Varsity Cup for the first time. The final was played at the TuksRugby Stadium in front of a crowd of 12 000 people.

Tuks solidified its status as one of the leading rugby universities in the country by losing only one match in the Varsity Cup competition and then beating Maties (the University of Stellenbosch) 29-21 to claim the Varsity Cup title. At the final, Tuks fly-half Wesley Dunlop was named Player of the Tournament, and Clayton Blommetjies was named Backline Player of the Tournament.

After winning Varsity Cup, TuksRugby aimed to win all three major competitions. They went on to be undefeated in the University Sports South Africa Rugby Championship, and beat NWU-Pukke from the North West University 29-17 in the final. This was the first time Tuks won the tournament. Fly-half Willie du Plessis was named Player of the Tournament.

After the tournament, Tuks 1 team manager Morris Gilbert said that “the University of Pretoria can now [lay] claim to having the best club team in South Africa.”

Tuks failed to defend their title in the next major tournament, the Carlton Cup, even though they were leading the game with only four minutes left to play. Tuks won the tournament in 2010 and 2011, but lost to the South African Police Service team in 2012.

Although the treble was not won, TuksRugby can be proud of its achievements last season, as the club lifted two trophies that it had never won before, and will hope to continue this form in the coming season. “What a [great] year for Tuks, probably one of the best for a very long time,” said Dunlop. “All the credit goes to Nollis [Marais] and his team. They are the ones that recruited players with the character and attitude to win a cup.” Dunlop continued that the team were “a great bunch of players [who] were like a family”.

Head coach Bart Schoeman said that “[T]he 2012 season [was] a remarkable journey” for TuksRugby.

Tuks will begin their Varsity Cup defence on 4 February when they face NWU-Pukke in a difficult fixture at the Fanie du Toit stadium in Potchefstroom. Tuks’s first home game at Sport campus will be the following week against UCT.

Tuks will be without key players Wesley Dunlop and Jono Ross. Dunlop will play professionally for the EP Kings, while Ross will play abroad for the Saracens. Despite the departure of some key players, the champions will be determined to retain the prestigious Varsity Cup and USSA titles.

Photo: Brad Donald

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