The Steinhoff UCT Koshuis League got underway on Wednesday night in typically wet and windy conditions on the Green Mile.
Supporters who braved the weather were treated to some fine displays of rugby as 2008 runners-up, the Nadoes and second runners-up, the Barbarians, played back-to-back fixtures.
The Barbarians played the first match of the 2009 season against Smuts House. The game was hard-fought as, playing into the strong UCT wind, the ‘Baa-Baas’ could manage only a 3-3 score line at half-time.
Many pundits expected the ‘Baa-Baas’ to come out firing for the second half with the wind at their backs and walk over a the tenacious Smuts outfit and for a while this was the case.
The ‘Baa-Baas’ piled on the pressure and eventually lock Mike Koen crossed the whitewash with a pick up from the base of the ruck which was duly converted by flyhalf Luke Tomlinson.
After that the tension eased considerably in the ‘Baa-Baas’ camp and they were guilty of being complacent as the Smuts backline linked well together to try and bring their team back into the game.
The final score was 10-3 and though supporters were treated to a close game, they will feel a bit let down by the conditions which never allowed a potent ‘Baa-Baas’ backline to really get going.
The Nadoes were up next against a determined Ikhaya House side aiming to once and for all lose the title of ‘whipping boys’ in 2009.
At the start of the game it looked like that might be the case as the boys in blue held their own against a disciplined Nadoes side.
Ikhaya could have scored on occasion in the first half had it not been for ill discipline or sloppy hands letting them down. Instead the Nadoes managed to capitalise on some mistakes and score a couple of break-away tries to leave the score 14-0 at half-time.
In the second half, the Ikhaya boys were either spent or had lost the will to fight as they let the Nadoes score some soft tries to leave the final score 34-0. Though the score line reflects a comprehensive victory, there will be many who will feel heartened by this scrappy Nadoes performance.
The night ended up in true UCT style with underdog residence side, the Marquad Lions battling to a win against the Panthers 15-12.
The Panthers have long been counted as one of the top sides in this competition and will surely be the most shocked by this result excepting, possibly, the Lions themselves. The Marquad Lions showed that they have a side to be feared this year with some big forwards and quick backs though, if truth be told, they were given a helping hand by the Panthers disintegration into ‘beach rugby’.
Despite having a lot of possession, the Panthers tended to follow the ball around in a gaggle rather than play structured rugby which cost them from turnovers and in try-scoring opportunities.
They were their own worst enemy on the night but, as we have seen before and as was the case in the ‘Baa-Baas’ and Nadoes games, the top sides tend to take a few games to find their rhythm.
We will have to wait until next week to see if 2008 champions, the Cobras, will have the same problem, but this year’s league looks set to be a closely-contested affair.