The promotion to the Cup is a dream come true that has eluded UWC since the Varsity Shield competition was established in 2011 as a second-tier tournament to the Varsity Cup, which started in 2008.
Since Rugby World Cup winner Chester Williams took over the reigns as the coach in late 2016, assisted by fellow Springbok Bolla Conradie, the UWC side has been in scintillating form. UWC won the Varsity Shield competition last year, but it was not a promotion year (promotion and relegation only happen every two years).
Assistant coach Lionel Langehoven says the win caps a process that started three years ago when the team set themselves the goal of not only getting promotion to the Varsity Cup but doing so in style. “The majority of our supporters are students and we need to entertain them and that is what we did.”
Langehoven says the team’s motto is “performance equals capability and good behaviour. If the quality of your behaviour is not good then you lose your capability to perform. So we set high standards in terms of attitude and discipline and if those are intact, capability looks after itself.”
He allayed fears of UWC being the whipping boys in the Cup next year. “We see the promotion to the Cup as a challenge and we won’t go there and make fools of ourselves and disappoint our iconic university because we serve our university first, then the Varsity Cup.”
For Mandla Gagayi, the Director of Sports Administration at UWC, the promotion is a “great game changer” for the University because it proves that UWC gives hope to those who never had opportunities before. “It further demonstrates our strength to always rise above our challenges as an institution and compete against the best,” he says.
Gagayi notes that UWC Rugby owed its success to those who were there before, “because they laid great foundations and ethos for us to follow. Since my arrival at UWC in 2015, I have experienced first-hand what it would mean to students, staff, alumni and general community for UWC to play in Varsity Cup.”
Gagayi says that celebrations aside, the University must be aware of the great challenges ahead. “We will be venturing into a new space where there is even greater demand for commitment in terms of human resources, facilities and finances. However, if we all work together – as UWC staff, students, alumni, community and corporate sponsors – we can definitely take UWC to even greater heights in the Varsity Cup.”