Room for improvement for FNB Shimlas in 2020

With their 2019 season having come to an end, FNB Shimlas are left to reflect on a 'mixed bag' of results.

The trend started for the team from the University of the Free State during the 2019 FNB Varsity Cup, where the fact that they played in the semi-finals against the mighty FNB Maties – and lost 47-5 – would suggest a successful return. Shimlas, however, won four out of their eight games during the round-robin stage, with the most disappointing result probably being the Bloemfontein derby where they lost against FNB CUT, 35-38. A few other games were also touch and go but the FNB Shimlas could not clinch the key moments to secure a win.

Their coach Hendro Scholtz said the story of their season was that they mostly played in the right areas with enough quality ball possession, but was not able to round off their chances.

This was arguiably the case for Shimlas in their domestic campaign too, despite ultimate success.

FNB Shimlas won their 2019 domestic league, their Free State Challenge Cup A, when they beat FNB Ixias (CUT) in the final 39-24.

Shimlas, though, lost against Ixias and Bloemfontein Police in playoff games and only managed to play in the finals due to their log standing. The positive is that the team have produced a large number of players who have represented different teams in the Free State Rugby structures. Seven former Shimlas players formed part of the Free State Cheetahs squad who claimed the 2019 Currie Cup title against the Lions. Scrumhalf Ruan Pienaar, eighthman Henco Venter (who the Sharks have subsequently confirmed as a new signing for 2020), flanker Gerhard Olivier, prop Nche and replacements Jacques du Toit, Charles Marais and Reinach Venter all played all in the final. Olivier, Nche, Du Toit and Venter were members of the 2015 FNB Shimlas team who won that year's FNB Varsity Cup.

The varsity also supplied two players to the national cause, namely Elrigh Louw and James Mollentze who featured for the Junior Springboks at this year’s World Rugby U-20 Championship in Argentina - where they clamed bronze.

All told, Scholtz (who seems destined to stay on at Shimla Park) will be looking to tweak here and there ahead of 2020 campaign where motivation to right the few mishaps of 2019 will be top of mind, if not match the Class of 2015.