Impi clinch maiden Shield title

UKZN shocked Wits 29-24 in Johannesburg on Monday to claim their first Varsity Shield title.

It was the only defeat of the season for Wits, who were outscored four tries to three in an entertaining game played in front of an enthusiastic crowd.

Both teams had good attacking opportunities in the opening stages but were not able convert them into points, with defence coming out on top in a tense start to the game.

The visitors landed the first blow when captain Lwazi Ngcungama forced the ball against the post after a sustained period of pressure in Wits territory.

The home side responded by surging into the UKZN 22 just after the first strategy break, but stern defence kept them at bay.

Instead the Impi would strike next as they made the most of a penalty kick that hit the upright with hooker Chris de Beer scoring in the corner from a clever move at the front of a lineout.

Wits hit back just before the break with impressive fullback Tommy Damba rounding off a good team try to score in the corner and cut UKZN’s lead at half-time to 13-8.

The visitors made a determined start to the second half, and extended their lead to 21-8 when flyhalf Innocent Radebe skipped through the Wits defence to score and convert his own try.

Wits responded by storming into opposition territory and flank Constant Beckerling was on hand to barge over for the try which put them back within striking distance at 21-16 once converted by Hewitt from close to the touchline.

The home side had their tails up with the support of a vocal crowd, but the Impi soaked up the pressure well and were next to strike when replacement Alwayno Visagie scored after some great running from inside centre Marius Louw.

Wits threw absolutely everything at the visitors in the final stages as they attempted to stage a dramatic comeback, and hooker Ferdinand Kelly got over to put them back within touch again.

However, it was not enough as UKZN held on to claim their first ever Varsity Shield title.

Wits – Tries: Tommy Damba, Constant Beckerling, Ferdinand Kelly. Conversions: Brandan Hewitt (3).
UKZN – Tries: Lwazi Ngcungama, Chris de Beer, Innocent Radebe, Alwayno Visagie. Conversions: Radebe (2), Siphatisene Dube.

Wits – 15 Tommy Damba, 14 Joshua Jarvis, 13 Alastair Ballantyne, 12 AJ van Blerk, 11 Luxulo Ntsepe, 10 Brandan Hewitt, 9 Ruan van Rensberg, 8 Cameron Shafto, 7 Richard Crossman (c), 6 Constant Beckerling, 5 Rhyno Herbst, 4 Graham Logan, 3 Luvuyo Pupuma, 2 Ferdinand Kelly, 1 Brandon Palmer.
Subs: 16 Chris Mills, 17 Ameer Williams, 18 Angus Gordon, 19 Ayabulela Mdudi, 20 Ruan Cloete, 21 Dandre van den Berg, 22 Ish Nkolo, 23 Tijde Visser.

UKZN – 15 Siphatisene Dube, 14 Shayne Makombe, 13 Marcel Coetzee, 12 Marius Louw, 11 Hendrik Lategan, 10 Innocent Radebe, 9 Rowan Gouws, 8 Adam Wessels, 7 Sanele Malwane, 6 Lwazi Ngcungama (c), 5 Christiaan van der Merwe, 4 David Harel, 3 Sizwe Kubheka, 2 Chris de Beer, 1 Matthew Mandioma.
Subs: 16 Mikyle Webster, 17 Ntandoyenkosi Mpofana, 18 Michael Hutton, 19 Kwezi Puza, 20 Langelihle Shange, 21 Yandisa Mdolomba, 22 Alwayno Visagie, 23 William Paxton.

By Michael de Vries

Photo: SASPA

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Mariette Adams