On Monday, the Ikey Tigers were on the losing end of a contest against NWU-Pukke losing 24-47 in their opening game of the 2014 Varsity Cup.
The side struggled to maintain the momentum they gained in the first 30 minutes, and Pukke took advantage of this, running away with the game in the second half.
The Tigers' first scrum of the match resulted in some brilliant match-play, and fullback Ross Jones-Davies dashed across the white for their first try, which fly half Dean Grant quickly converted. Shortly after this, however, the boys were dealt a massive blow as skipper Liam Slatem received a swift knock to the head and was carried off the field as a precautionary measure. The Ikeys fortunately bounced back, and within minutes powerhouse flanker Shaun Mcdonald stormed across the line. Grant converted once again, even in the ‘borderline gale-force’ winds, which left the scoreboard reading 16-0. Come the first strategy break tensions were noticeably high, and both refs did their best to get tempers under control.
Pukke got themselves on the scoreboard with a strong line-out drive, but kicker Tiaan Dorfling seemed to be not as prepared for the wind, and missed his first conversion. The visitors then made use of poor defense on the side of the Ikeys, as full back Sylvian Mahuza scored straight from the kick-off. This time, Dorfling was on point: 16-13, but still in favour of the home team. On the stroke of half time, however, Pukke gained the lead with another try leaving the half-time score at 16-21.
After the break, UCT looked to be on the come-back with a cheeky try by Jones-Davies under the poles. Unfortunately, this was short-lived as Pukke winger and Man of the Match Luther Obi thundered over the try line. UCT replacement flanker Jason Klaasen was then given a yellow card for tackling a player without retreating effectively on a quick tap. As coach Kevin Musikanth says, “a yellow card is a score and a half” and Pukke took advantage dotting down two more tries before the end of the match in relatively quick succession, leaving the scoreline at 24-47 at full time.
Chatting to Musikanth after the game, it is clear that the team will be able to take a lot of positives from the game, moving forward. Speaking about the early lead he said “our first 30 minutes were superb. We fronted-up, took them on in set phases and unlocked them when we turned them over.” On the flip side, however, “on a negative side, rugby matches are not 30 minutes and not everything always goes your way, you need to overcome ‘bad luck’, take the situation compete 100% and stay true to believing in the structure and the plan for the full 80 minutes.”
Full back Jones-Davies mirrors his views as he said: “in this competition, you have to play for the full eighty minutes otherwise sides will punish you in the periods where you are not one hundred percent switched on.”
He goes on, “when we played to our potential, we were dominant, so it’s about being more consistent and producing our best rugby throughout the entirety of the game.”
And this, the coach says, is what Pukke did. They played for the full 80, and used the breaks effectively enough to get themselves back into the game. “Hats off to them for doing this. They used our impatience on defence in the second half to their advantage and I think managed their match day better than us.”
As it’s O-week on campus, the crowds came out in their numbers to back their boytjies. Both Musikanth and Jones-Davies appreciate the significance of this. “A massive thank you to those that turned out on the Green Mile. We are a new team that need the true blue and white support and belief”, said Musikanth.
In terms of the impact the crowd had on the game, Jones-Davies explains that it is huge. “The presence of a crowd keeps you going when times get tough, and it's great to feel the support of your university behind you.
“For non-professional rugby players, having that kind of atmosphere for a game is something very special. “
Next week, the boys travel to Stellenbosch to take on their familiar rivals Maties, who also lost their first match of the season, going down 29-45 to NMMU.