(Published - 3 April 2019)
UWC rugby team has found the going getting tough in their historic first season in the Varsity Cup, but the team has put the name of the University on the map and is in good shape moving forward.
Although the team finished in the basement of the premier South African university rugby competition with only one win, players, coaches and management are all positive that the future is bright for the University.
“We expected it to be a tough first outing in the Varsity Cup. It is, after all, the premier league of university rugby,” observes Rector and Vice-Chancellor, Professor Tyrone Pretorius. “I am immensely proud of the team and the coaching staff for their perseverance, passion and commitment. Every game brings new experiences and lessons that will stand them in good stead next year.”
UWC Director of Sport, Mandla Gagayi, agrees, and says the 2019 season has been a challenge in that the team had to quickly bridge the gap from Varsity Shield to Varsity Cup. “However, there is nothing that we did not expect. We knew that every match will be a challenge and we set ourselves a goal of winning at least one or two games. Most of our efforts were focused on preparing the team for 2020 because we believe that will be the only time that we can realistically compete at Varsity Cup level.”
Echoing Gagayi’s sentiments that there is a big gap between the Shield and the Cup competitions, UWC forward coach Lionel Langenhoven believes the team has learned some valuable lessons “in terms of what we lacked, where we can improve, and the type of players we need to maintain our position in the Varsity Cup”.
Langenhoven says although there is a lot of work that the team needs to do, Varsity Cup has been a good experience and the team has made some inroads. “We managed to achieve one win and scored some good tries. Maties gave us a hiding but we scored four good tries and 26 points, which no other team has scored against them this year. Although we lost, it shows that there is some talent, and if we can rectify our mistakes and shortcomings, I’m sure we can give a better account of ourselves next season.”
Captain Adrian Paarwater comments that it has been a learning curve for players, and is confident that the team will do much better in future, “because now we have a feel of the Varsity Cup in terms of physicality and the speed of the game”.
Both Paarwater and Langenhoven are grateful for the unwavering support that the University community has given to the rugby team. “Without the supporters we would probably have crumbled. They kept us going and caused us to focus, and we want to thank the university staff and management, and everybody who is associated with UWC,” Paarwater says.
Langenhoven adds: “The fantastic support we had at home and in away games was goosebumps stuff. They kept faith and supporting our boys through thick and thin. With that kind of backing we will continue making UWC proud.”
Chairman of UWC Rugby Football Club, Advocate Nicolas Kock said it was a tough initiation into the top tier for the University team, “where the margins for error is far less and the punishment for missing them far more severe. However, most importantly we were able to compete in most of our matches. If our coaching staff can translate lessons learnt in this campaign into tangible steps on the road to improvement UWC will become a tough competitor at this level.”