FNB Madibaz hooker Temba Boltina prepares to control possession during a match in the Varsity Shield last year

Building depth in his squad has been uppermost in coach Jarryd Buys’s mind as FNB Madibaz prepare for their opening Varsity Shield rugby match against University of KwaZulu-Natal in Port Elizabeth tomorrow.

The encounter is a repeat of last year’s semifinal at the same venue and will kick off at the Madibaz Stadium at 7pm.

Buys said their approach to the season was based on the fact that the team with most log points over 2019 and 2020 would be promoted to the Varsity Cup next year.

“It was important for us to get those 30 log points last year, knowing that if we finish on top of the log again, irrespective of the number of points, it will be enough to get us back into the Varsity Cup,” he said.

“So our plan from last season was to build depth and competition among the group so that as you get to the latter stages if you have injuries you have the players who can come on as good replacements and do a solid job.

“I believe we have accomplished that. We’ve got a very strong squad and we could field two teams of 15 which could do a good job. It’s very important to have that depth available.”

The Madibaz mentor is equally pleased with the format of the competition, with matches being played on Friday nights and limited to one a week.

FNB Madibaz hooker Temba Boltina prepares to control possession during a match in the Varsity Shield last year

FNB Madibaz hooker Temba Boltina prepares to control possession during a match in the Varsity Shield last year. The Nelson Mandela University outfit open their 2020 campaign against University of KwaZulu-Natal at Madibaz Stadium tomorrow (7pm). Photo: Michael Sheehan

“Last year there was a very hectic start to the tournament when we played four games in two weeks. So compared to that, this year is way better.

“We have four games and then a bye, followed by the last two round-robin matches.

“That really helps in terms of player management, but we know we have to just take it game by game.”

He said they had two home games and the aim would be to build up some momentum for the two away fixtures which followed.

While Buys did not feel playing on a Friday would change their strategy in any way, he backed the decision to move games to a weekend night.

“They want to try to get more students to the games and I think that will work. Friday and Saturday are your traditional rugby days and I think the atmosphere will be really good on Friday.”

As they enter a new season, Buys is banking on the meticulous preparation they have put in to make the right sort of start.

“I am very happy with the build-up we’ve had,” he said. “The guys are in great condition and in terms of what we’ve covered and how we’ve improved, everything is on track.

“There were some warm-up games which gave us valuable feedback and after months of hard work we are pretty excited to get started on Friday.

“We know that no team can be taken lightly and as we enter a new phase we will be concentrating on what we can do and try to execute that well to get the upper hand.”

The Madibaz fixtures are:

Feb 14: v UKZN in PE; Feb 21: v Walter Sisulu in PE; Feb 28: v Rhodes in Grahamstown; Mar 6: v Cape Peninsula University of Technology in Cape Town; Mar 20: v Tshwane University of Technology in Pretoria; Mar 27: v Fort Hare in PE