Walter Sisulu University captain Phumlani Blaauw says his side aims to dominate the Varsity Shield for the next two years, after failing to qualify for the Varsity Cup.
The men from East London faced the Central University of Technology (CUT) in the promotion-relegation tie last year after finishing second in the Varsity Shield behind the University of the Western Cape (UWC), who were automatically promoted to the Varsity Cup.
CUT broke WSU hearts with a last-gasp try that won the game for the Free State university and condemned WSU to another two years in the Shield.
Despite the disappointment of last season, the ‘All Blacks’ are confident they can replicate their tournament form of 2018.
Blaauw said he and his teammates didn’t realise the gravity of the opportunity they had as an Eastern Cape university to make it to the Varsity Cup.
‘When it came to the playoffs, we got the hype and the vibe, but it didn’t cross our minds that it was something that big. When CUT scored their second try and were taking the conversion, one of the touch judges said something we didn’t realise: “You guys don’t know what is at stake here.” After that everyone had that look in their face, like we actually don’t know what’s at stake, and that’s when the boys started playing.
‘I feel if we had put in 100% right at the beginning, we would have won it and we could have qualified because the game was close. Even the Varsity Cup president told us after the game that we gave it our all and that it was a hell of a game.’
Next year will be a promotion-relegation one and the front-ranker said WSU want to qualify for the Varsity Cup automatically.
‘This year we want to win the title, and next year we want to qualify without having to play in the playoffs. After the CUT game, we looked at each other and promised ourselves that we’ll never feel the way we feel right now again, until we play in the Varsity Cup.’
WSC begin their campaign with a titanic clash against old rivals the University of Fort Hare (UFS) next Monday as part of the Varsity Shield double derby, and feel the game will give them an opportunity to stamp their authority on the tournament.
‘Playing Fort Hare is probably going to be the most physical and tough game we’re going to play throughout the year,’ Blaauw said. ‘Whatever the case is, when it comes to UFH versus WSU it’s a different game, everything changes and everything comes to a standstill.
‘Especially at Alice, it’s going to be a tough one. We need to be mentally and physically prepared to play them, because whenever we play each other it’s like there’s a certain switch you need to switch on, and after the game you can switch back to normal.’
Photo: Anthony Churchyard/Varsity Cup