NWU produced an excellent defensive display to claim a 26-13 victory over Shimlas in Bloemfontein on Monday. DYLAN JACK reports.
On a temperamental evening, which saw two yellow cards and a red, NWU showed an incredible concentration on defence and tactical nous to claim what could be a vital win against one of their playoff rivals.
The home side will be regretting not showing better composure as they created plenty of opportunities but could not find that breakthrough second try when they needed it most.
The match started with a tactical battle between the two flyhalves, with Lubabalo Dobela finding an excellent touch near the NWU 22.
It was NWU, however, who saw early possession and they capitalised when wing Pienaar van Niekerk found space out wide and stepped inside to go in for the opening try.
The hosts responded with some pressure of their own, winning multiple penalties and opting for a scrum near the NWU line from which Dobela put substitute back Tiaan Schutte in for a try to level the scores.
Shimlas had much the better of the attacking opportunities within the first quarter of the match, with an excellent cover tackle preventing Charl Pretorius from crossing in the corner to give them the lead.
However, they would have been ruing not taking a number of their opportunities as the visitors were headstrong in defence, with captain and hooker Louis van der Westhuizen, in particular, making a couple of vital turnovers.
A powerful driving maul from NWU looked set for the tryline but was cynically pulled down by Janco Cloete resulting in a yellow card to the flank and a penalty try.
NWU were the next side to see yellow as Shimlas did well retain possession and win a few more penalties, with Evardi Boshoff sent to the sin bin for repeated infringements. There would be no further addition to the scoreline in the first half as NWU went into the break 14-7 ahead.
The second half continued in much the same pattern as the first, with Shimlas creating plenty of linebreaks and forcing NWU to make tackles but struggling to find that final pass to draw level, while the visitors largely lived off scraps.
The home side’s efforts to get back into the game received a massive blow as lock Mervyn Roos was red-carded for a dangerous cleanout when Shimlas were right on the tryline.
NWU wasted no time in making sure they took advantage of their numbers while they could, with the new laws allowing Shimlas to bring on a replacement after 15 minutes. After a strong maul sucked in Shimlas defenders, centre AK Nela shoved off a tackle from Dobela to score.
Dobela responded by slotting a penalty to take Shimlas to within 10 points in the final quarter of the match, but soon afterwards he wasted a golden opportunity after chipping the ball over the defence and knocking on a return pass from Schutte with nobody ahead of him. The product of Grey High kicked his second penalty as NWU clearly started to tire.
However, the away side somehow managed to find a final gear and sealed the game when flyhalf Schalk Hugo cleverly took a quick tap and cross-kicked the ball to wing Lungelo Gosa, who collected and fell over the line.
Shimlas – Try: Tiaan Schutte. Conversion: Lubabalo Dobela. Penalties: Dobela (2).
NWU – Tries: Pienaar van Niekerk, penalty try, AK Nela, Lungelo Gosa. Conversions: Schalk Hugo (2).
Shimlas – 15 Sechaba Matsoele, 14 Charl Pretorius, 13 Keegan Haman, 12 William Eybers, 11 Marnus Boshoff, 10 Lubabalo Dobela, 9 Zinedene Booysen, 8 Allan Losaba, 7 Henk Pretorius (c), 6 Janco Cloete, 5 Mervyn Roos, 4 Sibabalo Qoma, 3 Ruan Kramer, 2 Hanno Snyman, 1 Thembinkosi Mangwana.
Subs: 16 Wihan Marais, 17 John Fincham, 18 Mogau Mabokela, 19 Sihle Diniso, 20 Jan Rossouw, 21 Rewan Kruger, 22 Ruan Henning, 23 Christiaan Schutte.
NWU – 15 Shane van Rooyen, 14 Andries van Niekerk, 13 Evardi Boshof, 12 AK Nela, 11 Lungelo Gosa, 10 Schalk Hugo, 9 Chriswill September, 8 Wian Conradie, 7 Muziwandile Mazibuko, 6 Gideon van der Merwe, 5 Jan du Plooy, 4 Johan Retief, 3 Robert Hunt, 2 Louis van der Westhuizen (c), 1 Tshegofatso Moloto.
Subs: 16 Marius Stander, 17 Nelius Theron, 18 Matimu Manganyi, 19 Reuben du Plooy, 20 Lucky Mkhize, 21 Eugene Hare, 22 BF van Staden, 23 Lincoln Daniels.
Photo: Van Zyl Naude/Varsity Cup