Last week, the UCT Eagles finished-off what was a truly remarkable, sustained performance in the Western Province Second League, topping the log for the first time since 2006. The team won a massive 16 of their 18 games, drawing and losing only once.
The league is over, the points have been won, and the fame allotted. While it’s all well and fine to see the points stacked up in UCT’s favour, the wins were not as effortless as they appear. The team had major setbacks to overcome on a regular basis. UCT Eagles Head Coach Christian Esterhuizen states that some of the disruptions include lose of players either to the 1st team, which is common, or to injury. Similarly, he explains, “our fixture list was also tough as we had to play nine matches in 35 days in the first round.” This is sure to be hard on the boys, who have to put their bodies on the line as much as twice a week.
In terms of the most challenging games, Esterhuizen said that the Big Four, Maties, Durbell, Hamiltons and Victorians are always a tough challenge, and given that they club “do not have the same depth as the bigger clubs like Maties […] to come out on top after 18 matches is very satisfying,” he said.
When asked about what he believes was the most memorable game for the team, he said “I would say the 32-8 win over Durbell in Durbanville. That win definitely set us up for the league as it was one of the best performances by an Eagles team I have ever seen.” For sure, a win of that magnitude was likely to imbue in them an ability to get the big wins.
In terms of the major contributing factors to their excellent performance, Esterhuizen claimed that the structures that the management had put in place before the season started were a huge factor, as they successfully managed an ever-changing team. However, “The vibe and the spirit the players had this year was probably the most significant factor to the success of the team; the players responded exceptionally well and they really played for each other”, he said.
The first half of the league saw the side start off on a positive note, with a 35-15 win against Belhar. Adjusting quickly, they went on to beat Bellville 34-3 and then pulled off a stunning 83-14 victory against Helderberg, their highest scoring game of the season. Durbell then proved to be fairly easy targets, going down 32-8, followed by Tygerberg, who they beat 24-7. Not surprisingly, their game against the Maties was much tougher, and the Eagles won the game by the skin of their teeth with a 15-14 score. The Victorians and SK-Walmers then went down 43-7 and 43-3 consecutively. Unfortunately, the side finished off the first half of the league with their first, and only loss against Hamiltons (3-18).
The Eagles began the second half of the league with a bang, beating Belville 75-0. The Victorians were trickier this time round, and UCT won by just 24-10. They claimed their sweet revenge against Hamiltons, beating them 16-11. The Maties then proved as worthy opponents as ever, and the sides drew at 15-15. A hefty scoring game was up next as UCT overcame Belhar with a 60-17 victory. Durbell had significantly upped their game and UCT won by only 4 points as the final scoreboard read 12-8. The two “bergs”, Tygerberg and Helderberg, came toppling down and the Eagles soared to 66-10 and 51-0 victories consecutively. SK-Walmers were their final opponents and they ended the league and the season on a high raking up a 54-5 win.
Already looking ahead to next year, the coach said “I think the win gives the players a lot of confidence and helps to establish a winning culture. The players have learnt now that they can beat the best teams in the league if they are focused every week.”
UCT Eagles – Western Province Second League Results
UCT 3 – Hamiltons 18
UCT 43 – SK-Walmers 3
UCT 43 – Victorians 7
UCT 15 – Maties 14
UCT 24 – Tygerberg 7
UCT 32 – Durbell 8
UCT 83 – Helderberg 14
UCT 34 – Bellville 3
UCT 35 – Belhar 15
UCT 54 – SK- Walmers 5
UCT 51 – Helderberg 0
UCT 66 – Tygerberg 10
UCT 12 – Durbell 8
UCT 60 – Belhar 17
UCT 15 – Maties 15
UCT 16 – Hamiltons 11
UCT 24 – Victorians 10
UCT 75 – Belville 0