FNB Varsity Shield
The FNB UFH Blues will go into their clash with the FNB WSU All Blacks as massive favourites, while the playoff between FNB CPUT and the FNB UKZN Impi could swing on one or two big moments.
Fort Hare have been the form team of this year’s FNB Varsity Shield. A pragmatic yet devastating approach earned them six consecutive wins across the round-robin phase.
The balance in their game is best illustrated by their attack and defence stats. They finished the league with the second-most points scored (158) and the fewest points conceded (42).
Defence wins tournaments and Fort Hare will rely on their formidable system to do the business in the coming semi-final.
That said, they do have a powerful set piece – the front row of Edwin Nxumalo, Kamvelihle Fatyela and Mnkani Sibabalo have dominated all comers at the scrum – and a strong kicking game, not to mention some dangerous ball-carriers in the wider channels.
What’s more, they will be playing this fixture at home. One would expect them to win and strengthen their bid for the title.
FNB WSU have blown hot and cold this season, as their record of three wins and three losses confirms. It’s important to note that the All Blacks haven’t beaten the other three semi-finalists in 2022. They will be hard-pressed to do so in a playoff.
Fort Hare will endeavour to keep the game structured in order to maximise their set-piece and defensive strengths.
The All Blacks, however, will want to play from broken field as much as possible. If they are still in the contest at half-time, and if the game opens up in the dying stages, they may be in with a chance of an upset victory.
FNB UFH BLUES vs FNB WSU ALL BLACKS (Thursday, 19:15, Davidson Rugby Field, SuperSport channel 207)
FNB UFH Blues – 15 Apiwe Sidloyi, 14 Mziyabulela Bathu, 13 Ryan Maree, 12 Migcobo Bovu, 11 Lilitha Mdladlana, 10 Keith Chiwara, 9 Lwazi Madiba, 8 Yamkela Mzozoyana, 7 Rodney Chikamhi, 6 Langalethu Susela, 5 Walter Moyo, 4 Ayabulela Xhosana, 3 Mnkani Sibabalo, 2 Kamvelihle Fatyela (c), 1 Edwin Nxumalo. Subs: 16 Bulela Magopeni, 17 Mesuli Nzima, 18 Mbasa Sonkosi, 19 Cinga Nqotyana, 20 Avuzwa Noko, 21 Merlin du Plessis, 22 Senanelo Ndlazi, 23 Liyema Tyali.
FNB WSU All Blacks – 15 Tebogo Madigoe, 14 Sibusiso Hans, 13 Scelo Tole, 12 Thembani Kori, 11 Soyama Mini, 10 Lwandile Mapuko, 9 Lithemba Ngcetane, 8 Bubele Gongqa, 7 Uyathandwa Fana, 6 Ayabulela Zono, 5 Asekho Marubelela (c), 4 Miyelani Ngobeni, 3 Thembalihle Njadu, 2 Zanokuhle Nkabi, 1 Lindokuhle Seteni. Subs: 16 Ovayo Mhlonyane, 17 Anda Matshoba, 18 Dayton Berndt, 19 Kamva Tetani, 20 Khanya Solani, 21 Eric Mcaphukana, 22 Yamkela Nyembe, 23 Lisolethu Valisi.
The first semi-final of the day promises to be a more intense and dramatic affair. In the league stage, the FNB UKZN Impi beat FNB CPUT 20-18 thanks to a try and conversion after the final hooter.
How much have FNB CPUT learned over the league phase and will they take those lessons to heart?
They were the most potent attacking side on show (184 points scored) and their defence conceded the second-fewest points (61).
However, their game management let them down at times, as was witnessed in the last-gasp losses to the Impi and the Blues.
FNB CPUT have dominated the FNB Varsity Shield in recent years and will be looking to secure a third title in 2022. They will need to meet the physicality of the Impi at the gainline on Thursday, and maintain their intensity, in order to progress to the final.
FNB CPUT have been particularly impressive at the breakdowns. They have competed fiercely to force many turnovers and have launched many successful counterattacks.
They possess the best attacking flyhalf in the tournament in Feghorn-Leigh Snyders and some clinical finishers in the wider channels.
The Impi will need to be at their accurate best if they are going to dethrone the champs.
FNB CPUT vs FNB UKZN IMPI (Thursday, 17:00, Davidson Rugby Field, SuperSport channel 207)
FNB CPUT – 15 Caine Stadler, 14 Christopher Andrews, 13 Iwaan Bloys, 12 Philasande Ngcobo, 11 Keenan Williams, 10 Feghon-Leigh Snyders, 9 Duran Alexander, 8 Roland van der Heever, 7 Ché Klaasen, 6 Keanan Solomons, 5 Moegamat Toffar, 4 Joshua Paris, 3 Matthew Coenraad, 2 Siyasanga Ngubelanga (c), 1 Jacques-Lynn Josephus. Subs: 16 Duke Shasha, 17 Onika Mgijima, 18 Masivuye Mafenyana, 19 Lungelo Kubheka, 20 Leano Haupt, 21 Hugan Engelbrecht, 22 Keano Cookson, 23 Darren Alexander.
FNB UKZN Impi – 15 Jarryd Nicholls, 14 Zamakuhle Zulu, 13 Singele Mkhize, 12 Gacula Poswa, 11 Devandre Adendorf, 10 Dawro Kock, 9 Johan Maritz (c), 8 Menzi Mabaso, 7 CJ Osode, 6 Sinamava Ntsinde, 5 Wilhelm Fenske, 4 Nhlakanipho Mathonsi, 3 Ulrich Walker, 2 Tristan Trollip, 1 Bambolunye Dlamini. Subs: 16 Qhawe Nxumalo, 17 Benjamin Maseko, 18 Muzomuhle Ncanana, 19 Tinotenda Mazhindu, 20 Sbongokuhle Ngubane, 21 Thando Cele, 22 Marcello Flemmer, 23 Khanya Kama.