UCT 3:7 Villagers
The afternoon saw Cape Town get hit by the worst storm in seven years, 10 meter waves smashed into the bay with high tide at around 4, which was also the kick-off time of this unforgettable game of rugby. It was extraordinary for a number of reasons. Rain, howling winds, a hail storm, the muddiest of fields, the wind changing direction completely and it definitely reminded of the famous wet 1995 RWC semi-final between France and SA. Only it did not rain ‘during’ that game and had the conditions been anything as bad as Saturday’s at UCT, it would have been called off.
UCT captained by Jody Burch in the absence of the sick JJ Gagiano played against the wind in the first half, which was pounding in relentlessly from the town side. The field had been prepared by the previous low scoring matches and looked like the trench war zones in the north of France of 1917. To stick with that comparison, UCT also had to resort to playing a game of inches, keeping the ball close, picking and going over and over, with every mistake punished by a kick deep into their half. The men in mud (formerly blue and white) did extremely well to keep Villagers out and deprive them off the ball and all scoring opportunities. Kicks against the wind were futile, as it just carried the ball straight back – so were long spin passes.
It did not rain – yet – but the field was so wet, it did not really make a difference. Lineouts had to be thrown to the front or even low and were heavily contested and despite the no score 0:0 at half-time – two penalty attempts by Villagers were blown wide, as was a penalty by Dave Clayton – it was its honesty and the pure determination by both teams that made it a strangely entertaining match.
The second half saw the Ikeys turn the tide, with fresh jerseys and the wind in their back and they immediately pinned Villagers, appropriately playing in their black away gear, against their try line. UCT came close to scoring and pushed hard. Villagers seemed all but beaten, as it would only be a matter of time until the Tigers would find their way over the line. A poorly executed line-out in Villagers’ 22 gave Mpo Mbiyozo enough of a chance to surprise the Villagers forwards. Mbiyozo broke through the line-out and offloaded in a tackle to Jody Birch. To his disappointment the referee ruled the pass forward and called him back from an otherwise likely try.
Then, 10 minutes into the half, the unthinkable happened. The wind direction changed 180 degrees. UCT were up against it again, and if that was not enough, now it brought horizontal rain and hail with it. It was a complete freak phenomenon that, as Doc Moss would confirm has never happened in 125 years of Varsity History.
Field position changed swiftly, with Villager’s kicks and the wind pinning the students back into their own danger zone. Villagers were awarded a 5 meter line-out with 20 minutes to go, an overthrow and a fumble, that may have included a knock-on by the guests was eventually kicked into the UCT try area. The cover defence scrambled, trying to dot down the ball, but misjudged, as the ball got stuck in the mud, Villagers got a hand on it and with the wind in their backs added the conversion. 7:0.
The temperature was around 4C and the hail came smashing into the Ikey’s faces when Referee Deon van Blommestein called the captain’s in to discuss calling the game off. This would have meant a draw and shared points and Villagers determined to defend their newly found fortune as well as UCT convinced that they could grind their way back into the game opted to play on.
As quickly as the hail came, it stopped, as did the wind and it was now bucketing down vertically, slowly washing the mud off the players faces and also giving them more options in the line-outs and in open play. UCT worked their way back into the Village 22 and won good possesion, it was replacement hooker Mark Goosen who finished off an attack from 20 meters out and slid over the line, to the cheering of his team mates, but a cover defender sliding in managed to push his foot into touch.
UCT kept digging deep and goaled a penalty with 10 minutes to go. 7:3. The Ikeys tried hard, but even deep in the guest’s 22 chances were few. Building on strong scrums, UCT kept it close again, moving forward, but time was running out. The last chance was a penalty 5 meters out, in extra time, but the muddy ball was knocked on and the game was over.
The Ikeys can keep their heads high, putting in a proud performance against a gutsy Villagers outfit and of course the elements, that try as they might, just did not favour them on the day. Had the wind pushed over the poles and the score board, which it almost did, the insurance would have rightly claimed an “act of god” which is precisely what it was.
It was a game of the big men, and while wing Matt Turner and center Pieter Engelbrecht had some good breaks, it was the forwards who did fantastic work in both halves. A huge dump tackle by Luzuko Panya earned him the Big Hit Award and also epitomised the determination of the UCT defense. Big Jody Burch had some trademark runs, splashing forward against his former club, Herbie Mayosi, the “Big Ship” used his low center of gravity for some great pick and go’s around the fringes. The man of the match was Bodo Sieber who like a German U-Boat kept grinding away at the Villagers fleet, tackling and winning turn-overs for his team.
Wing James Martin unfortunately injured his ankle quite badly in the first half and it is doubtful whether he will recover during the remaining three matches. It was also flank Mpoh Mbiyozo’s last match for the season, as he is taking a well deserved holiday before the Springbok Sevens starts again for him in October.
Three games to go, NNK at home next weekend, then Hamiltons in an almightly clash at Greenpoint, with the Grande Finale being the Intervarsity vs Stellenbosch away on the 27th of September.
1. Dylan Rodgers, 2. JP Koster, 3. Thembelai Mayosi, 4. Mike Ledwige, 5. Bodo Sieber, 6. Luzuko Panya, 7. Mpho Mbiyozo, 8. Jody Burch (c), 9. Stuart Commins , 10. Kevin Foote, 11. James Martin, 12. Peter Engelbrecht 13. Dave Edgar (vc). 14. Matt Turner 15 Dave Clayton
Mark Goosen, Ashley Wells, Michael Passaportis, Craig Kleu, Kyle Wickens, Tim Whitehead, James Bailes