THE WITS rugby team won their fourth game in a row on Monday night, despite trailing for most of the match.
The win means Wits goes back to the top of the Varsity Shield log, as the University of Fort Hare (UFH) beat previous leaders, University of the Western Cape (UWC), on the same night.
This result came as a surprise as UFH had won just a single game before Monday night, against the bottom team, the University of KwaZulu Natal (UKZN).
The first half of the game for Wits was characterised by missed opportunities for tries, mostly through forced handling errors.
“We made it quite hard for ourselves [in the first half]; it was really error ridden,” said Devin Montgomery, Wits captain.
Wits’ opponents on the night, the Central University of Technology (CUT) from the Free State, could not convert an early penalty kick in front of poles.
Wits could almost smell the white powder of the try line on their attack but CUT defended ferociously and pushed the home side back. A few minutes later, Wits did not have the same strength in defence when the Bloemfontein number 7 crashed over.
Bronson Lange, Wits’ in-form centre thrilled the crowd when he chipped the ball over the top of the CUT defence and chased it down. However, CUT displayed more calm cover at the back and beat Lange to the ball to prevent the try.
Wits were awarded a penalty on CUT’s 10m line and flyhalf Kyle Peyper landed it, despite the CUT fans’ attempt at putting him off.
Before the referee blew for the end of the first half, Wits had another chance to score a try when the Wits scrumhalf dodged several CUT tacklers but was stopped inches from the try line.
Wits trailed by 8-2 as the first half ended, despite plenty of opportunities to turn possession into points.
“It was frustrating, we spent most of the half in their 22,” said Montgomery.
“[In the first half] we panicked and some of our calls were rushed, so at half time we calmed down,” said Montgomery.
The home side looked stronger in the second half and finally scored a try through Brent Crossley, the scrumhalf who was stopped short in the first half. This pushed Wits into a 10-8 lead, but this would not last long as CUT scored their second try of the night through prop, Petri Coetzee.
Chances of pulling off a victory looked slim for Wits as the game neared its conclusion, but loosehead prop, Katlego Kgame, touched down the ball to edge the home side to their fourth win in a row.
“[CUT] pushed me back, but I pumped my legs and went over,” said Kgame describing his first competitive try.
The final score was 20-16, with Peyper scoring half of Wits’ points through two penalties and two conversions.
It seems Wits’ success can be attributed to their strong defence, as they have conceded the least points in the Varsity Shield so far.
Wits will face UFH on March 5 in Alicedale, Eastern Cape.