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Varsity Shield Launch

Julies to lead from the front

UWC Rugby Club received a boost ahead of their Varsity Shield opening match this evening when Rector and Vice-Chancellor, Professor Tyrone Pretorius, gave the team his blessings and encouraged them to go for the gold. UWC will host UKZN Impi at the UWC Sports Stadium, with kick-off at 16h45.

During the launch and team announcement at a packed Student Centre on 29 January 2014, Pretorius, the current president of University Sports South Africa, said: “I have words for the players. Winning is not everything. Winning is the only thing,” to the huge applause from the mainly first-year students. “One of my failings in life is that I’m a bad loser. I have not joined a losing university, have I players?” Pretorius asked, to a big “Noooo!” from the team. “We have been in the Varsity Shield since 2011 and hopefully we will be in the Varsity Cup next year. Make your institution proud. Make all of us proud. Go boys go!”

The team will be led by Josê Julies who was nearly dropped by coach Peter De Villiers after some poor performances last year. That turned out to be motivation for Julies to get his act together - so much so that he has been chosen to captain the University team in this year’s Varsity Shield Tournament.  “It was the kick I needed to wake up and to stand for myself,” the BA student recalls of De Villiers ultimatum. “I started to lift my game and got more involved in the team, including doing extra stuff like preparations”.

With last year’s captain, Freddie Muller, having decided to focus on 7s Rugby, Julies has big shoes to fill, but he is not worried. “Freddie was a brilliant captain. But I can’t be Freddie, I have to be myself. I will share my experience and try to learn from other members of the team. At the end of the day we need to have a good relationship and work together for the team.”

UWC intends to improve last year’s poor showing - which ended with them placing second last in the five-team mini league - and to try to win the tournament to get promotion to the premier Varsity Cup competition next year. But the Riversdale-born Julies say they will take it game by game and try to pile up points to get into the final, before they think about winning the tournament.

This year, UWC has significant fresh and young blood in the team, and Julies believes it is good for the team. “These youngsters are willing to go the extra mile to get into the team. They always come early to kick, way before the training schedule, and spend more time on the field after the training session. And there are more players vying for the same positions and the spirit in the team is high”.

Last year Julies was a lock, but with so many locks this year, he will move to the 7 flank position, a spot that De Villiers prefers for him to play. He possesses an abundance of experience, having played for the Western Province, South Western District and the Bulls Under 21 and Under 19 teams, among others.

It is often difficult for student athletes to balance their academic work with their sporting careers, and the Varsity Shield requires players to obtain a 60 credits pass rate in their academic work to be eligible to participate next year. Julies says this will make it tougher, but it is doable. “As tough as it was, I have managed to do it successfully so far. And the coaching staff always tell us that we are students who happen to be rugby players, not the other way around.”