Scrumhalf Luvo Claassen [kicking the ball] will lead the FNB Madibaz team in the Varsity Shield rugby competition

FNB Madibaz rugby captain Luvo Claassen says they have put plans in place to handle the pressure as they strive to regain a berth in the Varsity Cup.

The Nelson Mandela University team, coached by Jarryd Buys, have a chance to return to the top flight after an unbeaten run in the Varsity Shield league phase in 2019, but they now need to repeat that this year.

The team with the most log points over the 2019 and 2020 Varsity Shield tournaments will earn automatic promotion next year. Madibaz are in pole position on 30 points, five ahead of Cape Peninsula University of Technology.

The 24-year-old Claassen, who grew up in Parow North in Cape Town before finishing his schooling in Pretoria, said they would again be targeting 30 log points, but were determined not to get carried away with their position.

“The plan is to take it one match at a time,” said the Madibaz scrumhalf.

“Every game and every point matters, so we don’t want to get ahead of ourselves.

Scrumhalf Luvo Claassen [kicking the ball] will lead the FNB Madibaz team in the Varsity Shield rugby competition

Scrumhalf Luvo Claassen [kicking the ball] will lead the FNB Madibaz team in the Varsity Shield rugby competition this year. Photo: Michael Sheehan

“Our goal is just to focus on the first game, try to make sure we get all the points on offer, and then look to the next fixture.”

He said they understood that the pressure would be there, but added that other teams would also feel the strain.

“As I said, it’s just about focusing on what lies ahead of us before going on to the next challenge.”

While promotion remains their top priority, Claassen says they are also aiming to reach the final and “to hopefully win it”, after losing to CPUT in last year’s Shield decider.

The fourth-year BTech construction management student said he was ready for the challenge of leading the team.

“I’m grateful for this opportunity,” he added. “It wasn’t something that was on my mind but I’m honoured to be entrusted by the coaching staff and the team with the responsibility.

“I have previous captaincy experience, having led a few age-group teams as well as Madibaz at last year’s USSA [University Sport South Africa] tournament.”

Claassen, who has played for the EP Kings Currie Cup team, said their preparation leading up to the Varsity Shield opener on February 14 was on track.

“Our strength and conditioning coach has done a great job in getting our bodies in good condition and the boys are feeling fitter and stronger. That is a good sign.

“We’ve also paid attention to the mental side of the game – how to handle pressure and what to do in pressure moments – so that’s helped a great deal.

“The two warm-up games we played allowed us to test our systems and to work on details where we might have been lacking.

“Overall it’s been a good pre-season of hard work and we are as well prepared as we can be.”

Madibaz open their campaign against University of KwaZulu-Natal at the Madibaz Stadium on February 14.