Wits will not be progressing to the Varsity Cup semi-finals after being defeated by the NWU Eagles
North-West University’s Eagles have secured their spot in the Varsity Cup semi-finals on Monday, with a 36-3 victory against Wits.
The Eagles, affectionally known as Pukke had a strong start to the game, leading with a score of 10-3 before the game was suspended due to heavy downpours and lightning strikes.
The match was resumed 40 minutes later when the rain subsided, but Wits’ attempts to get the quanco into the end zone failed, ending the first half with the Eagles dominating with a score of 17-3.
When half-time ended, the heavy rains had intensified again and the game was suspended for over an hour. Most spectators left the stadium as they assumed the game would eventually be cancelled, but it carried on despite delays.
In the first 20 minutes after the game resumed, Pukke extended their lead through full-back Santino Swanepoel, who received the ball from out wide and finished with a successful try. This resulted in the NWU Eagles leading with 24 points while Wits remained at three points.
In their final try, which was finished off by inside centre Luke Fortuin, the NWU Eagles solidified their win with a final score of 36-3.
NWU player, Farai Sibanda who was sitting on the bench said the Eagles are excited about making it to the semi-finals, but “the job is not done.”
Wits player, Ziyanda Msipha said that he believes the bad weather conditions negatively contributed to their overall performance. “I feel when they called it [halted the game] at first, during the first half, I believe they should have cancelled it and made us play [the next day]. I think that would have made sense because there’s a lot of momentum shifts when you’re stopping the play three or four times.”
He explained that it was unfortunate that they did not make it to the next round. “The team is hurt, it’s badly hurt, and it’s tough because there’s quite a few players that won’t play next year, so this would’ve been their last one, so in that aspect, players are really hurt.”
Wits head coach, Hugo Van As said the team was “very devastated” about not making it to the semi-finals He said although the weather was bad, he did not think it contributed to Wits performance, alluding that it was just a bad game for his team.
He added that overall, the team performed well this year. Out of the seven games they played, the games against Stellenbosch University and the University of the Free State were the only two games where they were not “on par.”
Wits player Jason Lee Cloete said despite the defeat, Witsies can hold their heads up high because they put a good effort on the field.
FEATURED IMAGE: Wits rugby players in a maul with the NWU Eagles. Photo: Terri-Ann Brouwers
This year’s Varsity Cup tournament ended with an unlikely finish when Ikeys came back from an 18-point deficit with six minutes remaining to claim the title.
University of Cape Town Ikeys took the match, 39-33, in the Monday match against NWU-Pukke, which left the hometown crowd in Potchefstroom disappointed.
The Pukke were left with a sour taste in their mouth after they threw away a guaranteed victory with a rash drop goal by flyhalf, Johnny Welthagen, after the final hooter which could have been kicked into touch for a victory.
Ikeys ran over the whitewash after 83 minutes to a thrilling victory, which left the UCT fans at their Cape Town fan park in delirium.
Two controversial tries were disallowed by the television match official. The decision left the 7 900 Potch fans at the stadium feeling hard done by, as it left Pukke without a trophy after topping the log all season.
Disappointment was nothing to new to fans of the Wits varsity rugby team, which lost all seven of their games this year and have been relegated to Varsity Shield.
NEXT YEAR:A full Wits rugby stadium shows their support while singing the South Africa national anthem. The Witsies will battle their way into the Varsity Cup next season after being relegated this year. Photo: Caro Malherbe
University of Johannesburg was in a danger of being relegated but were able to fight for their place in the Varsity Cup in a play-off match against the University of KwaZulu-Natal. UJ was able to keep their spot with a decisive 42-8 victory.
FNB-Wits (in blue) face relegation to the Varsity Shield league owing to their dismal performance in the Varsity Cup. Photo: File.
Wits Rugby has lost yet another game leaving the team at the bottom of the Varsity Cup league log facing relegation.
The team finished 16-8 in a rain-drenched match against NWU-Pukke in Potchefstroom last night.
Wits showed a fighting spirit from the onset but despite their perseverance Pukke fought a little harder to maintain top position in the league.
Pukke started the game strongest, taking advantage of home territory to dominate possession.
After the first break, the home side launched a strong attack, leaving Wits’s defence vulnerable. Jacques Vermaak earned the first try of the game giving Pukke 8 points on the board.
Wits made successive breaks for the Pukke tryline but failed each time .
As if this was not unfortunate enough for the Witsies, Brent Crossely received a yellow card for a dangerous tackle 27 minutes into the game. Being a man down did not discourage the Boytjies in blue as they continued to give their all.
After half time the hosts remained determined to consolidate their lead, while Wits camped just outside their opponent’s try line but falling short of a try.
Wits finally scores
[pullquote align=”right”]They gave everything on the night[/pullquote]
After 62 minutes Phillip de Wet scored again for Pukke, putting them 16-0 up. Wits responded quickly, with fullback Ruhan Nel scoring the first try for Wits in the 64th minute.
With the scores close at 16-8 and both teams searching for victory, the final 15 minutes of the game were tense.
With under 10 minutes to go a tactical move from Wits saw the introduction of hooker James Marx to the field with only 7 minutes left in the game. NWU-Pukke however remained determined to hold on to their lead and managed to keep Wits out.
Pukke captain Devin Montgomery acknowledged Wits’ fighting spirit: “Credit goes to Wits, they came out,” Montgomery said. He was not happy with the points scored by his team but was still happy with a victory.
Wits has not won a single game this season and are 8thon the log with only 3 points. They need to win their match against the winners of the lower league The Varsity Shield in order to avoid relegation to that league.
FNB Wits have been left a mountain to climb after falling to bottom place with a 63-24 loss to FNB University of Johannesburg after squaring off in their first Varsity Cup match.
“The match obviously didn’t pan out the way we would have wanted but we have to take the positives out of it. We started the game too slow and after UJ got a few early tries we were playing catch up, which is never an easy thing to do,” said Wits Captain Devin Montgomery.
UJ ran in an overwhelming 9 tries to Wits’ three. Wits also fell short of a needed bonus point by a single try in their last two games. The points would have narrowed the broadening gap between Ikeys and Shimlas who are now four and six points ahead of Wits.
Luckily, Wits’ position in the Varsity Cup is secured for the 2013 season. Montgomery explained that there was no relegation zone this year guaranteeing that Wits will have two years in the competition.
“This is to ensure that we are given a fair chance to learn and adapt to this high level of rugby,” he said, “We know that every game in this competition is going to be tough and each week it’s never going to get any easier.”
“We have defended a lot this season and there has been a big gap between the number of tackles we have had to make compared to our opponents in every game.”
Wits are gaining a reputation of a never-say-die attitude on the field. During their match against UJ, Wits showed brief moments of brilliance when going forward. One of the key members to watch is Number 8 Carel Greeff who has proven to be an influential player in the squad having added another two tries to his five for the season in four matches.
“Carel is a great player and is playing great rugby at the moment. We have a couple of go-to ball carriers in the team, one of which is Carel,” said the captain.
The No. 8 has become well known for his crashing runs through opposing lines and he is a tenacious tackler that has made him an important element in the squad.
Montgomery said the “this Varsity Cup campaign is about learning and gaining experience playing at this top level of rugby for us.”
The team’s goals were to work hard in training and aim to perform for the full 80 minutes with making as little mistakes as possible.
“Wits will earn the reputation of being a difficult fixture I have no doubt about that. The team has a special bond and because we spend so much time together there is a family sense amongst the team,” he said.
HARD BALL: Captain of FNB Wits Devin Montgomery drives through FNB NWU-Pukke’s defensive line during their match at the Wits Rugby Stadium on Monday evening. Wits have not won a game since being promoted to the Varsity Cup. Photo Jay Caboz
Story and Photos by Jay Caboz
FNB Wits took a beating after FNB NWU-Pukke ran in a haul of 10 tries to, losing 71-25 on Monday nights Varsity Cup match held at the Wits Rugby Stadium.
Despite the overwhelming score line, Wits put up a good show and for the majority of the game were in running contention. But the visitors from North-West University tore through Wits defence in the second half with 5 unanswered tries leaving Wits in the dust and one try short of a salvaged bonus point.
“We were incredibly happy with our performance in the first half, we just have to learn to play for 80 minutes,” said Wits captain Devin Montgomery.
The score line opened a minute after the starting whistle when Wits flanker Thato Mavundla ran the ball over the line from a driving maul deep in Pukke’s half.
TRIES FOR CHARITY: A fan waits for the kick-off between FNB Wits and FNB NWU-Pukke. The pink ball is a new introduction to this year’s Varsity Cup and allows players to add a R2 000 donation if they score for their team during the “Rugby that Rocks Time” period. Wits Rugby Club supports Usindiso Ministries, a shelter that offers support, assistance and care to teenage girls, abused women and their children. Photo Jay Caboz
The ball continued to roll in Wits’ favour after Carel Greeff broke through Pukke’s defensive line and put another try in.In the 15th minute Pukke shook off their shock and responded with a try of their own to bring the score to 16-5.
Pukke put another eight points on the board when SJ Niemand drove over the try line.
Wits were able to extend their lead by another two points after converting a long-ranged penalty to end the first quarter. The home team managed to extend their lead to 10 points when they scored what would be their last try of the match.
Play continued to swing in both halves with Wits making some crunching tackles. But Pukke gained some level footing after scoring another try to decrease the deficit. The final nail on the coffin was drawn when Pukke put in two more tries to end the half 31-25.
The second half remained a contest until 15 minutes in when the floodgates opened. Pukke ran in five more tries which completely overwhelmed Wits’ defence. The visitors size and field play was just too much for Wits to handle.
“Yes we took a beating, but a lot of the points we conceded were from mistakes on our own behalf and turning over the ball,” said Montgomery. “We have UJ [University of Johannesburg] next week and it’s a more familiar game to us than this week. We are looking forward to it.”
The result leaves Wits hanging in last place on the log, two points behind 7th Ikeys (UCT). Wits will need to put in a good performance against UJ, who are currently sitting 3rd, to draw some points ahead of their clashes with bottom of the log teams.