We’ve been watching and waiting for a few years now, hoping that at some stage, something would happen to help make the UKZN Impi team just that little bit more competitive in the Varsity Shield competition.
As Sharks fans and supporters of rugby in KZN, it’s always been galling that the province (and by extension, the union) has no representation in the Varsity Cup competition and when the UKZN team was confirmed as a competitor in the lower-tier Shield competition, there were definite hopes (from my side at least) that the full might of the Sharks and Sharks Academy would be brought to bear, resulting in virtually immediate promotion to the Varsity Cup proper.
That didn’t exactly happen and for the three years that the Shield competition has been in existed, it’s probably fair to say that UKZN have failed to make any sort of an impact, much less suggest that they may be in line to challenge for higher honours. Left entirely to their own devices by the Durban-based Sharks setup, there simply weren’t enough top players available to ensure success and while I’ve no doubt that everyone involved has been trying their utmost, the results speak for themselves. The Impi haven’t been able to hold a candle to the real powerhouses in the Shield – the likes of Wits and UWC – and are a far, far cry from the lofty standards set by Tuks, Maties and UCT, whose teams bristle with young stars and SA age-group players.
That said, the Impi team did release a very positive piece of news yesterday, in that a Sharks Currie Cup squad member will represent them this year. Hooker Franco Marais, who was a member of last year’s victorious Junior Springbok side, has cast in his lot with UKZN and will play for them in both the Varsity Shield and Moor Cup competitions this year. A stalwart in the Sharks under 21 side last year, Marais gained a single cap for the senior team, when he came off the bench during the Currie Cup clash against the Bulls in Durban.
Impi coach Shawn van Rensburg is most pleased with what he’s seen from Marais so far, saying that “he brings great presence to our squad, having played at provincial and international level. I am very impressed with his motivation at our evening practices, especially after having completed full day training sessions with the Sharks”. Let’s hope that Franco is just the first of many young Sharks to swap the bright lights of Durban for Maritzburg, where something special just might be brewing.Tweet