Following relegation from the FNB Varsity Cup at the end of last year’s competition, FNB UWC has to had to rebuild and realign itself to get back into the premier competition.
And now they have positioned themselves just right as they travel to Gqeberha on Thursday for a table-topping clash against FNB Madibaz. The winner will play in the Varsity Cup in 2024. The losers will get another crack at it against the team that finishes 7th in the Varsity Cup. At the moment, that is FNB UJ.
Director of rugby at UWC, Paul Treu, has kept his eye on each fixture and not over-extending himself or his charges despite being one step closer to regaining Varsity Cup status.
"We are taking it game by game, and never allow ourselves to become too relaxed," Treu says despite being the only side that is unbeaten in this year's competition.
"The teams in the Varsity Shield competition know each other very well, your strengths and weaknesses are known, and this is why we cannot think of any game as an easy game. The Madibaz game will be a tough one but we approach it like any other opposition."
UWC won the Varsity Shield in 2018 when Bok legend Chester Williams was at the helm. This year, Treu and his charges will be able to emulate this.
"We want to live in the now, and not in the future, but in the same breath we have already identified four areas of concern for us. If you want to do good in the Varsity Cup you will need to do well in these four areas. There are many possibilities and we believe in each other.
"It is important for teams like UWC, CPUT, and Madibaz to not only qualify to be part of the Varsity Cup but also to be competitive with the top universities. This provides an opportunity for communities of all shapes and sizes in and around these universities to draw inspiration from them.”
According to Treu, higher education is the drawing card for most student-athletes and he believes rugby players shouldn't have to weigh up their rugby and academics when it comes to pursuing either.
"A rugby player shouldn't come to UWC as his last resort, we want to be their first option. Rugby players want to play with the best, and Varsity Cup teams are the best, and this is why we need to be competitive and not just a flash-in-the-pan type of team."
by Lyndon Julius