As season-openers go, Monday evening was chastening for FNB UWC, but they're determined to not let it distract from their 2020 FNB Varsity Cup ambitions - far from it in fact.
Last year's FNB Varsity Cup newcomers could not get the better of a more disciplined FNB Wits side who, despite the visitors' handling errors in tricky conditions at UWC's Bellville headquarters, were full value for their 40-10 victory. It means that the Cape side, now coached Lionel Langenhoven (who has taken over the reigns from the late Chester Williams), have lost ground to their most likely automatic relegation 'rivals', UJ - who also lost. Though both remain on 7 points on the cumulative 2019-2020 log (which will be used to determine who gets relegated automatically and who has to face a play-off against the FNB Varsity Shield 2020 runners-up), UWC's points difference is now 142 worse off than UJ's.
Those facts are not playing on the mind of UWC's skipper, Jacques van Zyl, who wants them to feed off the 'underdog' tag they carry.
"To be honest, my expectations for the team this year is to win the Varsity Cup," a very optimistic Van Zyl told www.varsitycup.co.za post-match.
"I don’t believe in setting yourself average goals but I will be really satisfied with playing in the semi-finals as well. I think a challenge that we will face as a team is not a lot of people will back us as they used to when we performed so well in the Varsity Shield. This is okay with us because it brings us closer and encourages the brotherhood in the squad."
The best chance UWC will have of meeting Van Zyl's lofty goals is for his teammates to match the type of output the second year BA General student had on Monday evening against Wits.
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The 23-year-old hooker led from the front as best he could by putting in a few big hits to keep the visiting players at bay during threatening passages of play. Van Zyl was also instrumental in the build-up to UWC's solitary try which Lundi Msenge was credited with.
The nature of the Varsity Cup is that teams soon get the opportunity to fix whatever they deem to be broken. In that regard, UWC will prepare to do so on the road when they face FNB Shimlas (who suffered a 67-16 defeat against defending champions FNB Maties in their opener) in Bloemfontein on Monday, 10 February, kicking off at 19:00.