John Mitchell so nearly got his Varsity Shield coaching career off to a winning start last night, as his UKZN Impi side came agonisingly close to an upset win over defending champions CUT in Bloemfontein.
An early try to Sharks under 19 prop Stefan van Schalkwyk, coupled with some good goal-kicking from flyhalf Brendan Cope, saw the Impi take an early 10-2 lead. They held on well, but eventually relinquished that lead just before half time, as a yellow card to number 8 Deon Carney proved telling. CUT flyhalf Noel Marx scored the try that, once converted, saw the teams go into half-time locked at 10-all.
UKZN again threatened to pull away in the second half, with a further Cope penalty and a try by impressive winger Shayne Makombe seeing them lead 20-10. The defending champions, though, found another gear and scored two quick tries, through prop Danie van der Merwe and centre Johan van Schalkwyk, to lead 26-20 going into the final minutes. Makombe’s second, right on the final hooter, gave the Impi a sniff of victory, but Cope alas pulled the touchline conversion, leaving the CUT Ixias the spoils in a 26-25 result.
Mitchell and his charges will take much heart from this inspired showing, away from home, against a side that never looked like losing at all last year. Things are certainly on the up down in Maritzburg.
CUT (26):Tries: Marx, Van der Merwe, Van Schalkwyk, Cons: Marx 3,Pen: Marx
UKZN (25): Tries: Van Schalkwyk, Makombe 2, Cons: Cope 2, Pens: Cope 2
FNB CUT: 15 Kholo Ramashala, 14 Alec Mhlango, 13 Johan van Schalkwyk, 12 Charles Hitchcock, 11 Duan Pretorius, 10 Noel Marx, 9 Marius Grobler, 8 Juan Hugo, 7 Frans Sisita, 6 Bolofo Mokoea, 5 Fanie Coetzer, 4 Lyvette Shikwambana, 3 Danie Van der Merwe, 2 Deon Gouws, 1 Len Noort.
Replacements: 16 Gerhard Baard, 17 Carl Gersbach, 18 Ian Van Wyk, 19 Vincent Maruping, 20 Stephan Griesel, 21 Mosego Toolo, 22 Dean Kouprihanoff, 23 Hanro Liebenberg.
FNB UKZN: 15 Brandon Bailing, 14 Shayne Makombe, 13 Hendrik Lategan, 12 Gareth Meikle, 11 Hendrik Groenewald, 10 Brendan Cope, 9 Cameron Wright, 8 Deon Carney, 7 Zwela Zondi, 6 Lwazi Ngcungama (captain), 5 Johan Wagenaar, 4 Gideon Koegelenberg, 3 Stefan van Schalkwyk, 2 Dean Muir, 1 Henri Boshoff.
Replacements: 16 Matthew Mandioma, 17 Leon Mulder, 18 Adam Wessels, 19 Sanele Malwane, 20 Nelson Makhanye, 21 Gavin Nyawata, 22 Mondli Ntshingila, 23 Sizwe Kuhbeka.