Madibaz - Leon vd Merwe

Discipline will be the name of the game when the Madibaz kick off their FNB Varsity Shield campaign against Cape Peninsula University of Technology in Cape Town on Friday.

The match against the team who knocked the Gqeberha students out of the tournament at the semifinal stage last year will be crucial in creating important momentum early on.

This is why head coach David Manuel was specific in his wishes – keeping cool heads in the heat of battle.

Starting on the back foot only creates pressure down the line and putting yourself in that situation due to ill discipline is stress he can live without.

He described the Western Cape side as a potent unit who would be fired up to make an immediate statement in front of the Bellville crowd.

“They have some really good athletes in their squad and they are strong in all departments, so we know that maintaining our discipline will be critical to developing a level of parity,” Manuel said.

“They will also have a very lively crowd behind them. If we can start strongly, it will help to keep the fans quiet and create some momentum for us.”

Manuel, who is coaching the Madibaz for the third straight year, said the players had settled into the systems management had put in place.

Madibaz - Leon vd Merwe

The FNB Madibaz rugby team are fired up to make a strong start to the FNB Varsity Shield competition when they take on Cape Peninsula University of Technology in Cape Town on Friday. The match starts at 7pm and will be televised live on SuperSport. Photo: Varsity Sports

“If everything goes well, I’m expecting everyone to be more settled in our defence and attack systems and how we want to implement the kicking game.”

The coach favoured a free-flowing brand of rugby within the parameters of these systems.

“That is what we have worked hard on in the last three seasons.”

He also wants the team to learn from last year’s Varsity Shield journey in which they were on track for much of the season until going down to the University of the Western Cape.

That meant the latter finished top of the log to earn promotion to the Varsity Cup.

As runners-up, Madibaz had a second bite at the cherry in a promotion playoff against the second-from-bottom Cup side, which turned out to be an encounter against Central University of Technology in Bloemfontein.

By that stage Manuel’s charges were running on fumes after losing to CPUT in the semis and came badly unstuck in the decider.

Having absorbed those harsh lessons, the coaching staff went back to the drawing board to avoid a repeat.

Fast forward several months and the players are eager to get started after months of preparation.

“It’s been three weeks since we played our last warm-up game and we have had a good block of training since then,” Manuel said.

“They are fired up . . . and it is now a case of putting what we have been through to the test.”

His words were echoed by captain Leon van der Merwe.

“Last season’s ending was very disappointing for us and that has fuelled our determination to do better this time,” the number eight said.

“We are expecting many similar challenges this year as it’s a very competitive tournament and CPUT are always one of the toughest matches on the calendar.”

He added that they had left no stone unturned in preparing for a reversal of fortune against their Cape Town rivals.

The televised match kicks off at 7pm.