CAPE TOWN – If anyone thought the University of the Western Cape (UWC) were just there to make up the numbers in their first season of Varsity Cup rugby, they are in for a rude awakening.
The tournament debutants put on an inspirational performance at the Green Mile on Monday evening, despite going down to the University of Cape Town (UCT) Ikeys.
It was just not enough to pull off a fairytale victory, with the more experienced UCT scoring late into the second half to snatch a thrilling 32-24 victory.
UWC certainly showed in the first quarter they were the equals – if not superior – to their more fancied opponents.
The visitors’ gameplan revolved around moving the bigger UCT pack around the field with a fast-paced game, with both forwards and backs handling the ball.
However, the excitement of the opening game in front of a large crowd got the better of the visitors as Chester Williams’ UWC team tried to force the final pass at times, leading to knock-ons at crucial junctures.
UCT showed their experience when they capitalised on one such mistake when UWC tried to run the ball out of their own 22-metre area, only for the home team to recycle the ball before sending it out to wing Reitumetse Magoje, who powered his way over in the corner.
Fullback Darian Hock added the extra two points with a brilliant conversion from the far right side of the field.
This did not deter the Varsity Cup debutants, though, with lock Gary Porter particularly impressive for UWC as he poached a number of UCT lineouts.
This allowed UWC more opportunities to attack, and they were eventually rewarded for their enterprising play when impressive wing Kurt-Lee Arendse etched his name into the Varsity Cup record books by becoming the Bellville team’s first ever try-scorer when he crashed over into the corner.
Centre Lyle Hendricks added the conversion to level the scores at 7-7.
The euphoria did not last for too long, with UCT utilising their superior weight advantage upfront from the restart.
The home team kept the ball at close quarters, forcing the UWC pack to make numerous tackles.
The pressure exerted forced UWC into conceding a string of penalties, with the visitors’ discipline severely tested.
Ultimately, it proved too much to handle when prop Justin Theys was sin-binned for stamping.
UWC’s woes were compounded when Porter was also forced to leave the field shortly afterwards with an ankle injury.
This left UWC without two of their most physical players, which allowed UCT’s pack to run rampant that eventually saw scrumhalf Stef de Gouveia barge his way over close to the poles.
This left Hock with an easy conversion to send UCT into halftime 14-7 up.
UWC were the first to land a blow after the break when former Bishops fullback Tristan Leyds levelled the scores again for the visitors.
But such was the nature of the contest that UCT hit back almost immediately with a seven-point try by hooker Cuan Hablutzel.
WATCH: UWC fullback Tristan Leyds is gutted after the close opening loss to UCT but calls on all at UWC to pack out Bellville Stadium next week for "uDubs" first home game! @IOLsport @UWCSport @varsitycup pic.twitter.com/5AuVrbI5gW— Zaahier Adams (@ZaahierAdams) February 4, 2019
Under the Varsity Cup rules, teams are awarded seven points for a touchdown instead of five when the move that led to the try is started outside the opposition’s half.
With Hock slotting the conversion, UCT were now leading by nine points.
Again UWC came back. This time it was through wing Andre Manuel, who ran through after a clever chip kick over the UCT defence.
With the wind at their backs, UWC were now full of running, with Hendricks adding a penalty to put the visitors ahead for the first time at 24-23.
But UCT were not to be denied, landing the killer blow just five minutes from the end when prop Simon Raw bulldozed his way over for another seven-pointer that closed out the game for the Ikeys.
* Other Results: Tuks 23-6 CUT, Maties 33-17 Wits, UJ 8-23 NWU Pukke.@ZaahierAdams