Nobody tells you that when you sign up for UCTR rugby at a tender age and stage, that it is a life long love affair, complete with all the agony and ecstasy of lamour. One can recover from a broken heart or the slings and arrows of Cupid’s bow, but UCT rugby is for life, chum.
Last night’s game at the Green Mile in the howling gale force conditions was a classic entree of UCT rugby. After 31 minutes the Ikey Tigers had tackled like tigers, flattening the rumbling behemoths from the dusty plains of Potchefstroom; well, the old Olen Park used to be a dustbowl bedecked with ‘dubbeltjies’ when I played there in the late sixties. The Pukke forwards looked to me as if they were the grandchildren of the monsters I played against in those far off days. The Ikey Tigers made 87 tackles in 31 minutes, missing a scant 6. Great defence, but ultimately at a price. Repeatedly stopping a herd of buffalo takes it out of the best players.
The improvement in some aspects of our forward play since the early part of the season wasnoticeable. Still a bit short of game time, Graham Knoop added some grunt to Levi Odendaal’s excellent display, and the front row scrummed well and produced two moments of sheer magic.Francois Van Wyk’s wounded buffalo gallop at a superb angle will go down as one of the best from a UCT prop in a very long time, and Mr. Consistent, Wes Chetty, turned in another terrific performance. Zandy McDonald gets better and better with each game and is set to be a real star performer for the Ikey Tigers for a long time.
The backline played typical UCT rugby with some super running from De Allende, Leyds and Winter.Tiger Bax and Adrian Kritzinger were well marked but still looked like a very good Ikey Tiger centre combination. Nicholas Holton is maturing rapidly and the timing of that pass to Winter was an absolute gem. Liam Slatem also played well at the back of the scrum.
We lost through a combination of the effects of the relentless pick and go attrition so loved by the Pukke, eventually forcing us into costly mistakes at crucial times, no more so than at the very end ofthe game, and youthful inexperience. We lost the game; Pukke did not win it. A draw definitely falls into the Morne Du Plessis category of ‘it’s like kissing your sister.’
I see the core of a very good team slowly emerging from this squad, but repeat that we are missing a skipper who can inspire us when things are not easy. Hopefully Tsolo will grow into the role, both as a captain and as a player. The Varsity Cup is a tough baptism, and the ‘loading’ of the teams from up north in this year’s competition, makes it even more difficult.
Finally, Mr. Jason Japtha is an irritating referee, something like Jimmy Smith-Belton of the seventies; erratic, querulous and pedantic. I will long remember the fiasco in the opening Varsity Cup game at the Green Mile when for a very long 7 minutes he dithered around the posts when we had scored a perfectly legitimate try and allowed the TMO to utterly confuse him and the crowd. We deserve better than Mr. Japtha in the future. We have served our time with him.