Records tumble as Tuks win Varsity Shield trophy

Posted on April 29, 2024

Tuks's rugby team reset the "record books" last night by beating Varsity College 95-21 in the Varsity Shield final. 

The 15 tries Tuks scored on their home turf is the most in a Varsity Shield final. So is the 95 points. Tuks is also the first to boast of winning the Shield and Cup Tournaments. 

Needless to say, Tuks's head coach, Dewey Swartbooi, had reason to be smiling. When he took over as coach, the team was down and out, having been relegated to the Shield Tournament. But from day one, he made clear that the goal was to restore the pride in TuksRugby. That is precisely what he did. He will, however, never take sole credit. 

"It is a team effort. Every player, coach and support staff bought into what we set out to achieve. I can't thank them enough. Even the players who never got to play were instrumental in our success as they helped ensure that everyone stepped up during every training session."

According to Swartbooi, he took a page out of the Playbook of Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus. 

"Watching Chasing the Sun, I noticed that the Springboks were a happy team. They had complete trust in their coaches. So, one of my first challenges was to ensure that Tuks is also a happy team.

"What was also important was finding a balance in how we play. I did not want Tuks to play 'festival rugby' running with every ball, but I also wanted to play more than just a kicking game. The forwards and the backs must gel to play an all-round game. The one thing that undoubtedly made a big difference in our campaign is that every player bought into the concept of playing each game as if it is a final."

"The team suffered an early setback when Allister Williams, our captain, broke his finger and had to withdraw. But as it said in Afrikaans 'die een se dood is die ander se brood'. Edwin Till genuinely stepped up as a hooker, as did Ruan van Blommestein."

Swartbooi is reluctant to single out any specific player's heroics, but when pushed to do so, he says that the credit should go to Tuks's captain, Ethan Burger. 

"Through his leadership qualities, Ethan played a crucial part in ensuring that the team gelled on and off the field and never lost focus during a game. As a captain, he has got a cool head. Ethan was undoubtedly the best loose forward in the tournament. He is a genuine all-round player. In the scrums, he is solid and a good ball carrier. He is even good at tactical kicking.

"Tharquin Manuel proved he is the ultimate team player. He was brilliant in our first four games as a fullback. I asked him to switch positions when we lost our centre pairing due to injuries. He never questioned my decision. Tharquin impacted in each game he played as a centre.

"I genuinely don't like to single out players as winning the Shield Trophy was a team effort. But I have to mention JW Mare and Kamohelo Tlome, who always did the 'donkey work' on the field. Kyle Cyster improved with each game he played. And so I can go on saying something special about every player."

Manuel got the Shield Player Rock Award and the Back That Rock award. Ethan Burger was the Forward that Rock and JP Wentzel was the Rookie that Rock. 

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