Picture: THINKSTOCK
Picture: THINKSTOCK

The University of Stellenbosch are marching on strongly towards another semifinal appearance in the Varsity Cup.

The defending champions, who have lifted the trophy four times, hold a four-point lead in the standings — with 14 from a possible 15 — and will be odds-on favourites to make it four wins in a row on Monday when they make the trip  to Bloemfontein to take on Central University of Technology (CUT) at 6.30pm.

CUT surprised friend and foe last time out on home turf when they edged the University of Johannesburg (UJ) 27-26 to seal a first win the competition in more than a year. Fullback Heinrich Bitzi contributed 12 points via two penalties and goalled tries scored by Anrich Alberts (prop), Hardus Nel (eightman) and Ruben Cross (replacement hooker).    

Whether the Free Staters have the firepower in their pack to trouble their Cape rivals only time will tell. Maties are growing stronger by the game and should win this bout by a 30-plus margin.  

Last Monday the students from the Winelands travelled to and beat the University of Pretoria (Tuks) 26-24 in a high-octane affair that had the strong crowd on the edge of their seats.

Tuks fielded a younger and less experienced side and did themselves proud.

The Maroon Machine defended well when under fire and never backed off in the physical exchanges they ended shaving.

“It was a gutsy team effort that got us the win to keep our unbeaten [record] intact,” said Maties coach Hawies Fourie.

“Now for a fourth game in as many weeks and our goal is to log up five points. But all respect to our opponents who will be on a high after ending up victors over UJ.”

The University of the Free State (Shimlas) and North-West University (Pukke) are unbeaten heading into their clash at Shimla Park. Two former champions have two wins apiece and will be eyeing last-four spots, and as things stand on the nine-team table, it is doable for both if fifth-placed Wits falter.

Shimmies  are in third place behind Tuks with Pukke in fourth on nine points, one point behind the pair.

My money is on Pukke making it a hat-trick of wins. They play the game hard and that physicality may be too much for Shimmies to handle. They enjoy running the ball at every opportunity trying to match force with force and should it pan out that way then we can expect a different outcome.

While Pukke beat Varsity Cup rookies and basement dwellers, the University of the Western Cape (UWC) 37-21 last time out, Shimlas were made to fight all the way against Wits before claiming a 33-26 away victory.

The University of Cape Town (UCT) are off a bye week and just as well after taking a 66-5 beating from arch-rivals Maties in round two. They opened their campaign with a hard-fought 32-24 home win over UWC.

The former two-time champions (2011/20014) have in recent years battled to be the top dogs and 2019 offers up little hope of a title challenge.

But you  never know.

The Capetonians welcome winless UJ to the Green Mile, while the final match of the day sees Tuks locking horns with Wits in what should be a cracking encounter.

Wits have a strong pack but Tuks have the firepower at the back spearheaded by halfbacks Tinus de Beer and Theo Maree. Both are not afraid to put the boot in to gain yards into enemy territory.