Top dogs show class in Shield
Brent Crossley of Wits (Gallo Images)
Cape Town - Both last year's finalists - Wits and CUT - recorded convincing victories in their respective Varsity Shield matches on Thursday night.
Wits scored five tries in the second half against Fort Hare to pull away from the visitors and claim an emphatic 58-16 win in moist conditions at the Wits Rugby Stadium.
Last year's Varsity Shield Player That Rocks Garth van Rayner, the speedy right wing from Fort Hare, scored two tries which were both converted but Wits crossed the whitewash eight times themselves and ended up cruising to a comfortable win in the end.
Van Rayner's second try was the pick of the bunch and saw him round two players to bring his team to within five points of the home side just after half-time, but those were to be Fort Hare's last points and the floodgates opened for Wits late in the second half as they cantered home.
CUT (Central University of Technology), the defending Varsity Shield champions, registered their first-ever victory over the UKZN Impi when they ground out a 30-10 win at the Peter Booysen Spots Park in Pietermaritzburg.
CUT were in control early on, enjoying the majority of territory and possession, and they were rewarded when hooker Baksteen Van Heerden crashed over for the first try after a line-out drive which was the culmination of a sustained period of pressure.
Left-wing Nico Steenkamp got over for their second try and when flyhalf Jannie Myburgh added a penalty after converting both tries (don't forget those eight-point - converted - tries this year!), CUT held a commanding 18-0 lead.
The visitors were cut down to 14 men when No 8 Juan Hugo was shown a red card for his reaction to UKZN lock Gerrit Fourie kicking one of his team-mates. Fourie was shown a yellow card for foul play but Hugo had to spend the rest of the game on the sidelines after he picked the UKZN lock up and threw him to the ground.
Despite this setback, CUT managed to keep the Impis at bay and although they conceded two unconverted tries - scored by UKZN skipper Leon Stevens and flyhalf Hanno Botha - the champions were never really stretched by the home side.
Another converted try to captain Inus Kritzinger, who was playing at scrumhalf after having played flyhalf in the opening game against Wits on Monday, put CUT 26-10 ahead and when Myburgh added a late penalty and drop-goal, it was clear that there was no way back for UKZN who had a bye on Monday night.
Although they could not secure the bonus point, CUT still moved to the top of the table after two solid victories in four days, and they are followed by Wits who have an impressive points' differential after their second-half demolition of Fort Hare.