FNB Varsity Shield
The FNB UFH Blues and FNB CPUT won their respective semi-finals on Thursday to progress to the FNB Varsity Shield decider.
The Blues remain unbeaten after seven matches in 2022. They will host FNB CPUT – the reigning champions – in Alice on Thursday, 21 April.
In the first of two semi-finals staged at the Davidson Rugby Field on Thursday, FNB CPUT were pushed to the brink in their 26-24 win against the FNB UKZN Impi.
FNB CPUT won the territorial battle in the initial stages and their abrasive approach at the gainline forced the Impi to concede possession and penalties.
They took control of the contest after captain Siyasanga Ngubelanga scored from the back of a well-executed maul right before the strategy break.
Six minutes later, Impi flyhalf Dawro Kock was sent to the sin bin for a reckless challenge. FNB CPUT punished the 14-man side immediately, with hulking lock Moegamat Toffar swooping on a loose ball and crashing over the line.
The Impi conceded another try right before the break. Feghorn-Leigh Synders converted Darren Alexander’s score to extend FNB CPUT’s lead to 19-10 at half-time.
When Roland van der Heever powered through the defence in the 48th minute, the result appeared to be in the bag. The Impi refused to give up, though, and struck back through their talismanic winger Zamakhule Zulu.
FNB CPUT began to lose focus. Reserve scrumhalf Hugan Engelbrecht was shown a yellow card for cynical play in the 56th minute.
The Impi punished the transgression when they drove upfield and scored. In the space of 10 minutes, they had reduced the deficit from 16 points to two.
Both teams enjoyed opportunities to score in the closing stages, but failed to convert. FNB CPUT repelled the Impi’s final surge, and then cleared the ball upfield.
From there, they hung on to secure their place in the final.
In the second playoff on Thursday evening, the FNB UFH Blues beat the FNB WSU All Blacks 19-16 in a fiercely contested Eastern Cape derby.
The game marked a tribute – and a fitting one at that – to the late Fort Hare director of rugby Elliot Fana.
The opening quarter was particularly physical. The Blues hurled themselves into the collisions, while the All Blacks refused to give an inch at the gainline.
FNB WSU lacked control, though, and replacement centre Yamkela Nyembe was sent to the sin bin for a high tackle after nine minutes.
They conceded a penalty try after pulling down a Fort Hare maul and lock Miyela Ngobeni received his team’s second yellow card of the game.
Despite their poor discipline and the resultant loss of personnel, the All Blacks outmuscled the Blues and went to the break with an 11-7 lead.
FNB UFH scrummed their way back into the contest. After winning a series of set-piece penalties on the FNB WSU tryline, they were awarded a penalty try.
The All Blacks continued to attack. Lwandile Mapuko linked up with Sibusiso Hans to earn a 16-14 lead.
Mapuko – who had an excellent game in general play yet a poor night in front of goal – went on to miss a crucial conversion attempt.
Fort Hare lost a number of lineouts in good field positions over the course of the game. In the 74th minute, however, they secured possession from a set piece deep in FNB WSU territory.
From there, they patiently recycled the ball through the phases. Lock Walter Moyo eventually breached the defence to score the game-winning try.
FNB Varsity Shield semi-final results and scorers: FNB CPUT 26 (19) – Tries: Siyasanga Ngubelanga, Moegamat Toffar, Darren Alexander, Roland van der Heever. Conversions: Feghorn-Leigh Snyders (3).
FNB UKZN Impi 24 (10) – Tries: Menzi Mabaso, Zamakuhle Zulu, Johan Maritz. Conversions: Jarryd Nicholls (3). Penalty: Dawro Kock.
FNB Player That Rocks: Roland van der Heever (FNB CPUT)
FNB UFH Blues 19 (7) – Tries: Penalty try (2), Walter Moyo. FNB WSU All Blacks 16 (11) – Tries: Soyama Mini, Sibusiso Hans. Penalties: Lwandile Mapuko (2).
FNB Player That Rocks: Lwandile Mapuko (FNB WSU All Blacks)
FNB Varsity Shield final: FNB UFH Blues vs FNB CPUT (Thursday, 21 April, Davidson Rugby Field, 19:00, SuperSport channel 207)
Photo: Dane Fortein/Varsity Cup