CUT, UWC off to solid starts
Cape Town - The 2012 FNB Varsity Shield season kicked-off in fine - and historic - style on Monday, with matches in Bloemfontein and Alice setting the tone for an exciting Varsity Rugby season.
The evening's matches saw defending champions CUT record a 25-12 win over last year's runners-up, Wits, whilst the second match - in front of a fanatical crowd at Alice's Davidson Rugby Stadium - saw visitors UWC claim an entertaining 36-13 win over Fort Hare.
But results aside, all eyes were on the new points-scoring system introduced into the four Varsity Rugby tournaments this season; with three points for a conversion and two points for a penalty or a drop-goal.
In the first game, the University of Witwatersrand held a 2-0 lead (thanks to a penalty) and then a 4-0 lead (courtesy of a second penalty) over the Central University of Technology.
The 4-0 scoreline soon became 12-0 as the first-ever eight-point try was scored (three points for a conversion, remember) to put Wits ahead by 12-0.
However, credit must go to the home side, with captain Inus Kritzinger leading their fightback when he crossed on the left-hand side for his team's first try to narrow the gap.
Another try saw CUT led 13-12 at half-time and Wits remained scoreless in the second half as the men from Bloemfontein crossed for a third and match-clinching try through replacement prop Danie van der Merwe late in the second forty minutes.
Although CUT will be satisfied with the victory, they will not be happy with their finishing which could have been far more clinical - especially when one considers how much possession they had on the night.
The match between the Fort Hare Blues and the University of the Western Cape produced plenty of excitement and also highlighted the value of the eight-point converted try, as UWC left-wing Cheslyn Roberts helped himself to a hat-trick of tries, all of which were converted by the visitors' kickers.
That meant 24 points to the men from Cape Town in goaled tries, keeping their noses in front until they earned a penalty try on the stroke of full-time - giving them a massive 32-point haul on tries alone.
Both teams played with plenty of adventure, but the visitors took their opportunities a lot better - despite being bossed in territory and possession and being forced to make almost twenty more tackles than their opponents.
Four yellow cards were shown by referee Lusanda Jam - two to each side - showing that the officials would not tolerate negative play on defence this season.
The Varsity Shield competition will continue with two more fixtures on Thursday, February 2 (Wits v UFH and UKZN v CUT), with the Varsity Cup kicking-off on Monday, February 6 with matches in Cape Town, Pretoria, Stellenbosch and Port Elizabeth.