There’s first year jitters and then there’s making your university’s FNB Varsity Cup team for the first time… something these five players have taken in their stride this season.
With a number of FNB Maties’ 2019 winning squad moving onto pastures new there were places up for grabs in Drikus Hancke’s Starting XV. One of those was at the back of the scrum, but Marcel Theunissen has swiftly made that maroon No. 8 jersey his own.
The 20-year-old has seamlessly stepped up from Maties’ Young Guns squad, which he captained to the second of consecutive titles in 2019. Apart from the third year BCom Logistics Management student being ever-present this term, Theunissen has also taken a leading role in the Maroon Machine’s success.
He scored a try during their season-opening win against FNB Shimlas (67-16), before another in a man-of-the-match performance against FNB UWC in Round 4 (77-5). In the nail-biting 8-7 derby win over FNB UCT, Theunissen again claimed the FNB Player that Rocks award to confirm his status as a player going places.
While Kabelo Mokoena has taken an intriguing route to FNB UP-Tuks, the winger has had no trouble finding his way directly to the tryline in his debut FNB Varsity Cup season.
Mokoena was born almost 20 years ago in Soweto which would make you think he could have been in either the FNB UJ or FNB Wits set-up. However, Mokoena completed his schooling down in the Cape at SACS… but gave all of FNB UCT, FNB UWC and FNB Maties the slip to move back up-country to become a Blue Bulls junior.
He remains on the provincial radar, but having signed up to study for a BA in International Relations, UP-Tuks coach Nico Luus wasted little time incorporating Mokoena in the senior rather than Young Guns squad.
Mokoena has subsequently taken to this level with aplomb. His introduction came off the replacements bench against FNB NWU in Round 1, but since then he has started all five of the Stripe Generation’s subsequent games. More than that, ‘Kabs’ has made four visits to the tryline including two long-range Point-of-Origin efforts to show how elusive he is.
During varsitycup.co.za’s pre-season predictions with the captains, each was asked who he thought would be his team’s leading try scorer. Each made relatively accurate calls, but no more so than FNB CUT’s Heino Bezuidenhout.
He chose fellow rookie Philippus Johannes Krugell, and the leftwinger has backed up his captain’s confidence. More than that, ‘PJ’, has shot to the top of the overall list…
The 21-year-old, born and educated in Pretoria, got the ball rolling with a ‘brace’ against FNB UP-Tuks in Round 2, which was the Ixias’ season-opener. FNB Maties kept the second year Information Technology student quiet in Round 3, but FNB UCT (one try), FNB Shimlas (one Point-of-Origin try and Steers Kinging Moment award) and FNB UWC (two tries) couldn’t.
As a result, Krugell sits on six tries for the season to date, two ahead of any other player and probably laments the halting of his try-scoring frenzy more than many.
Not content with being the little brother (relatively speaking, of course) of a Super Rugby player, Emmanuel Tshituka has been making a big impact at FNB Wits.
The Witsies are having a great FNB Varsity Cup season to date, with their unbeaten start seeing them currently sitting in third place on the log.
Tshituka, who at 19-years-old is still eligible to play in the Young Guns tournament, has grown as a senior player as the weeks have passed. In the first two rounds of action, against FNB UWC and FNB UJ (his brother Vincent’s alma mater!), Tshituka had to settle for a ‘finisher’ role – coming on for fellow lock Anton Gerber both times.
By Round 3, ‘Manu’ was upgraded to a starter in the nail-biting 27-24 win against FNB NWU. The second year BA General student then retained the No. 5 jersey against FNB UCT, and barged over to score a crucial try in the 10-all draw.
The crowning moment of Tshituka’s emergence came in the 16-10 win over FNB UP-Tuks in Round 6, when he claimed the FNB Player that Rocks award.
For four years FNB UP-Tuks selection meetings could run through positions 1-23 with only a few seconds needed to write down Tinus de Beer at No. 10. However, the legendary flyhalf (and all-time FNB Varsity Cup top-scorer) reached the ineligibility age of 25 last year.
Step forward Theo Boshoff. Few doubted that the second year Sport Science student had the credentials to take over from De Beer (having marshalled UP-Tuks’ Young Guns and ther Blue Bulls Under-20 teams to titles in the last two years), but the ease with which he has done so this year has been impressive.
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The 21-year-old was the difference-maker in the season-opener against FNB NWU when his on-the-hooter penalty secured UP-Tuks a 42-40 win. His match tally, in fact, was 23 points which earned him the FNB Player that Rocks award.
‘Fiela’ has continued to play his part in keeping the Stripe Generation in second on the log (behind FNB Maties) by racking up a season-leading 61 points. Those have come through two tries, 15 conversions, six penalties and a drop goal to highlight Boshoff’s all-round abilities.