The FNB Varsity Cup is back for 2022, this time with supporters in the stands, a first since the start of the pandemic

For the rest of the world, it was a day of love, filled with flowers, chocolates and words of affirmation. But within the four white lines on a field at Wits Rugby Stadium, there were no romantic sentiments shared between the FNB Wits and FNB Madibaz rugby teams.

On February 14, 2022 the roar of the crowd filled the stadium for the first time since 2020. The blue and yellow stands vibrated as supporters welcomed back the players of FNB Wits with thunderous cheers, claps and songs. All of which helped the home side secure a convincing 31-20 win.

Wits rugby supporters are back in the stands like they never left. Photo: Kemiso Wessie

Compared to 2021, when the Varsity Cup took place in a secure bio-bubble off campus, Monday’s game was a one for the books. Head coach, Hugo van As, expresses his joy about being back in a full stadium, “The atmosphere was just unbelievable.” Van As says being in the bio-bubble was difficult, players recovery times were a challenge, as was keeping morale up. He is confident the return of students and spectators will have players bouncing back and playing at their best again.

First-year bachelor of arts in law student and first time rugby spectator, Naledi Choenyana feels special having been in the crowd at FNB Wits’ first in-person game since 2020. “I didn’t really understand what was going on, but I caught on, eventually. I would definitely come to another game in the future,” she adds.

First-year students from Sunnyside Hall of Residence were happy to be in the stands on Monday night. Photo: Kemiso Wessie

The stands of the Wits Rugby Stadium were a sea of blue. The glitter eye shadow of some supporters could definitely be seen by captain and prop, Ebot Buma all the way down on the pitch. Students from Sunnyside Residence showed their support in blue t-shirts and tiaras as they danced and sang to “Asibe Happy.”

Despite the clear win and atmosphere, Coach van As felt that with proper use of presented opportunities, they could have gotten their first five points much sooner into the first half. However, out of the 15 players (replacements not included), hooker Prince Roe Mulea made an impression on the coach with his performance.

Loose forward, Ziyanda Msipha, tells Wits Vuvuzela that having fans back and cheering them on was a welcomed breath of fresh air. Msipha expressed excitement for upcoming games against FNB Maties and FNB Tuks.  One of the highlights of the match saw fullback, Setshaba Mokeona tear through the Madibaz defence at lightning speed and score a try that had the crowd going wild.  Teammate Msipha says he is proud of Mokoena, who “did a really good job”.

Coach van As adds that the game was a good foundation for what they will have to work on preparing for their next home game against FNB CUT Ixias on Monday, February 21, 2022.

FEATURED IMAGE:  The Wits rugby team is on a mission this season. Photo: Kemiso Wessie