It is often said that good things come in pairs, and judging by the UP-Tuks' centre combo's form it is true.
After UP-Tuks' first two games of the FNB Varsity Cup season the lyrics of Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder's hit song 'Ebony and Ivory' springs to mind when searching for ways to describe the play of the Stripe Generation's centre pairing – Wian van Niekerk and Sango Xamlashe. On the field, they certainly play together in perfect harmony.
Centres are vital players for any team. They are required to have the ability to think on their feet, so they can deceive the opposition by using individual or combined skills. Being fearless and committed to defence is another vital requirement. Van Niekerk and Xamlashe, both 21, tick all the boxes.
The statistics will back this up. Last year the centre pairing was instrumental in helping the Bulls win the SA Rugby Under-21 Championship. Van Niekerk's on-field heroics did not go unnoticed as the third year BEd student received the award as the Bulls best Under-21 backline player.
The pair have now set themselves the challenge of helping UP-Tuks to a fourth Varsity Cup title.
Van Niekerk credits his "working relationship" with Xamlashe – a BCom Financial Sciences fourth year – to a complete understanding. Apparently, it is often a case of the one knowing what the other is planning without any words ever spoken.
As to his role Van Niekerk said: "As an inside centre I have to be able to make decisions because it is at this point in the chain that the options begin to appear. It is my job to deliver different types of passes that open up the gaps in the defensive line. Often it is also the inside centre along with the openside flanker who ends up making the most tackles."
Van Niekerk, though Kuruman-born attended Paarl Gymnasium, so it is no surprise that the former Springbok captain, Jean de Villiers, is one his heroes.
UP-Tuks has scored nine tries in their first two Varsity Cup encounters against the FNB NWU (4) and FNB CUT (5). Werner Fourie (hooker) with three tries to his name is, for now, UP-Tuks's top try scorer. Meanwhile, Van Niekerk and Xamlashe both dotted down against CUT, when Van Niekerk claimed the Steers Kinging Award.
Theo Boshoff (flyhalf) is one of the tournament’s top points scorers. He has scored a try, succeeded with a drop goal as well as four penalty goals and six conversions.
On Monday, UP-Tuks are hosting FNB UJ with kickoff at 19:00 - after the teams' Young Guns clash at 17:00.
By Wilhelm de Swardt (TuksSport Media)