The 2023 battle of Braamfontein was won by the boys in blue, after a loss to the orange army in the 2022 season. 

Wits University’s rugby team took on their neighbours from up the road, the University of Johannesburg in the FNB Varsity Cup Johannesburg Derby on Monday, February 27, 2023. The blues’ victory was unexpected as they clawed their way back from a 30 – 0 score at the end of the first half of the game.

UJ hooker, Darnell Osuagwu, scored the first try of the game to put his team on the scoreboard within five minutes of the first half. Despite an attempt by Wits flyhalf, Christian Humphries, to intercede a pass, the blue number 10 was given a yellow card for the deliberate knockdown and UJ was awarded a penalty try.

With two tries on the scoreboard at the 15-minute mark, UJ made it four by the 21st minute, bringing the halftime score to 30 – 0.

FNB UJ dominated the first half of the Johannesburg Derby on Wits University’s home turf. Photo: Tannur Anders.

Despite the feat Wits now faced, the boys in blue came back strong in the second half after what must have been a rousing locker room speech from head coach, Hugo Van As, leading to a win in what was his 50th match as head coach.

Wits made an appearance on the scoreboard with a point of origin try just minutes into the second half. Injured Wits hooker, Jason Cloete, explained that a point of origin try is when “you start the attack from inside your own half and you finish it with a try [then] it counts as seven points automatically… then you still get two points if you get the conversion”. This rule is only applied in the Varsity Cup.

Wits scored two more tries in quick succession bringing them up to 23 points before UJ was awarded a penalty after the referee made an offside call. UJ took a kick, scoring three more points to sit with a comfortable 10-point lead.

Wits Rugby teammates embrace as they celebrate their win. Photo: Tannur Anders.

Momentum ramped up in the 71st minute when Wits scored a try and conversion to bring the score to 30 – 33. Three points down and into extra time Wits ended strong to score their fifth and final try of the derby, winning 35 – 33. Bear hugs and cries of “Joburg is blue” filled the field when the final whistle was blown.

Wits backline coach, Jamie de Bruin, described the match as “a cliché game of two halves”. He added: “We can be very grateful that the boys stuck to it… that’s the blue’s attitude ‘never give up’.”

UJ has lost two games in a row to date for the 2023 Varsity Cup season. “We started off really well and I guess we just let this one slip in the second half”, said UJ flanker, Kelvin Kanenungo. He said the team will go back to the drawing board and fix mistakes next week when they take on UCT Ikeys at home.

This was Wits’ second win in a row, and they hope to make it three when they face off with UFS Shimlas on Monday, March 6, 2023.

FEATURED IMAGE: FNB flag watches on as Wits and UJ scrum during the 2023 Varsity Cup Johannesburg Derby. Photo: Tannur Anders.