Contact Us
4 March 2022
Player-turned-coach reflects on FNB Varsity Cup journey
Two-time FNB Varsity Cup winner Therlow Pietersen speaks about the impact the tournament had on this career and his latest role as FNB UWC defence coach.

Pietersen won the inaugural FNB Varsity Cup title with FNB Maties, before moving down to FNB UCT. The outside back became the first player to win the cup with two different teams when the Ikey Tigers claimed the title for the first time in 2011.

More than a decade later, Pietersen has been recruited by FNB UWC head coach Paul Treu as a defence coach.

Pietersen played for Boland in 2007, under Hawies Fourie – the current Cheetahs coach – and then under Deon Davids – the current Springboks assistant coach. He joined FNB Maties in 2008.

"I went to Stellenbosch as a flyhalf but then coach Chean Roux suggested that I play fullback. I just took it by the horns and ran with it," he says.

"The move worked out quite well in the end. That was also the first year of the FNB Varsity Cup, and nobody really knew what to expect as everything was new. The tournament just took off from there and the rest, as they say, is history."

Pietersen’s decision to join rivals FNB UCT was not well received by some at FNB Maties.

"Look, people at the time thought I had moved for financial reasons, which was never the case. I was looking for something more culture-based and not just win-focused.

"I think the timing of my move to UCT was perfect. They were really building something different, something unique, both from a brand and university perspective.'

Pietersen said the Ikey Tigers coaches at the time – John Dobson and John le Roux – instilled a strong work ethic and belief within the group. Dobson is currently coaching the Stormers.

"In 2011, we eventually won the competition after coming close a few times before," Pietersen said.

Eleven years later, Pietersen finds himself working with another Western Cape side – FNB UWC – as a defence coach.

"I never thought I would go into coaching. The one thing that strikes me with coaching is not just helping a player on the field but, in essence, having a positive impact on his life outside of sport.

"When Paul Treu came knocking, I jumped at the opportunity to be involved in the FNB Varsity Cup. He is one of my coaching mentors."

Pietersen (35) is nicknamed 'Puppy' because he was the youngest of a school group called 'Die Honde'.

Apart from Treu, he lists Dobson, Alan Zondagh and his high school coach at HTS Bellville, Ettiene Cronje, as the coaches who have had a profound impact on his life and career.

Pietersen – who is fourth on the FNB Varsity Cup all-time try scorers' list with a haul of 18 – will return to the Green Mile on Monday when FNB UWC travel to FNB UCT for the Chester Williams Memorial Trophy.

"It's a funny one," he says about the fixture. "I have to put the emotions aside otherwise I won't be focused on the job at hand.

"I enjoyed my time at UCT and made a lot of friends and memories there, but that's all in the past."

Article by Shafiek Mouton courtesy Varsity Cup Media. Image Skhu Nkomphela/UWC Sport.