The University of Witwatersrand opened their Varsity Shield campaign with a deserved 23-14 win over the University of Fort Hare in their historic clash in from of a packed house in Alice on Monday.
Varsity Rugby is back. It started on the Davidson Rugby Field in the Eastern Cape town of Alice. It started with an innovation - the introduction of a second tier in Varsity Rugby, the Varsity Shield.
Marius van der Westhuizen blew the whistle to start the first Varsity Shield match and Michael Sephton-Poultney of Wits kicked off to get things going.
Before this bit of history unfolded, the teams lined up and were introduced to no fewer than seven dignitaries. The credo was read and then, led by the Fort Hare Sextet, the national anthem was sung.
At half-time the vice-chancellor of the university, Dr Mvuyo Tom, switched on the new lights, courtesy of the Varsity Cup at a cost of R2-million.
The behaviour at the match was wonderful - the singing the dancing, the rhythmic clapping of hands. It was a wonderful atmosphere.
The scrumhalves on each side were brilliant - Ntando Kebe for the Blues and David Turnbull, the Wits captain in his fourth year in the side. Kebe got the scoreboard working when, into a breeze, he goaled a penalty. 3-0 after two minutes. Later he made it 6-0 with a second penalty before Sephton-Poultney goaled for Wits. 6-3 after 21 minutes as Wits came more and more into the match with their forwards' driving play.
Fort Hare suffered badly from poor discipline which earned them three yellow cards. Wits attacked and were close. Nkosikhona Nofuma was sent to the sin bin and Wits opted to organise a five-metre line-out, mauled and scored, the try credited to ginger Devin Montgomery who once played for the Scarlets Under-21s in Wales. 8-6 after 29 minutes.
Just before half-time Kebe goaled again. That made it 9-8 to the home side at the break.
The Blues had rotten luck at the start of the second half when the referee found a knock-on that denied them a try. Instead they got their second yellow card for a high tackle. Lukhaniso Fana was injured in executing the high tackle and the referee said to him: "Once you get up, you're off."
Wits were close and then strong flyhalf Sean Manton burst through two tackles for a try at the posts. The visitors led 15-9 after 50 minutes.
Just before Fana came back from the win bin, Itumeleng Mokae was sent to the sin bin for a tip tackle. Wits then went on the attack but suddenly the Fort Hard backs found their feet. They attacked down the left and then came wide right where Eman Mphando intercepted a pass and streaked some 60 metres to score. 20-9 with 11 minutes left. Sephton-Poultney missed the conversion but goaled a penalty soon afterwards.
After replacement Qondani Katywa broke on the right, Fort Hare came back wide left where Lukhanyiso Magele cut inside to score. 23-14 with eight minutes left, and they should have scored again when their handling went awry with a two-man overlap and five metres to go.
For the University of Fort Hare:
Pens: Kebe 3
For the University of Witwatersrand:
Tries: Montgomery, Manton, Mphande
Pens: Sephton-Poultney 2
FNB UFH: 15 Sinovuyo Ganto, 14 Mandilakhe Gcilitshana, 13 Lukhanyiso Fana, 12 Thabo Ratyana, 11 Lwando Makhongolo, 10 Ayanda Mateisi, 9 Ntando Kebe, 8 Thando Ndondo (captain), 7 Nkosikhona Nofuma, 6 Billy Dutton, 5 Sokhana Mkona, 4 Itumeleng Mokae, 3 Xola Mapapu, 2 Kwezilokusa Mkhafu, 1 Luvuyo Kama.
Replacements: 16 Vuyisanani Mavuso, 17 Sive Ntwasa, 18 Matomela Mabhengu, 19 Onke Dubase, 20 Sibabalwe Mtsulwana, 21 Qondani Katywa, 22 Lukhanyiso Magele, 23 Sabelo Kolanisi.
FNB Wits: 15 Michael Sephton-Poultney, 14 Eman Mphande, 13 Brandon Lizamore, 12 Heinke Hartdegen, 11 Nkuli Gamede, 10 Sean Manton, 9 David Turnbull (captain), 8 Devin Montgomery, 7 Shai Korb, 6 Ryan Odendaal, 5 Charles Baggott, 4 Kats Ntsie, 3 Paulo Ferreira, 2 Sheldon Terblanche, 1 Katlego Kgame.
Replacements: 16 Tyrell Tintinger, 17 Anele Guzana, 18 Paulo Berinato, 19 Brendan Whyte, 20 Andrew Keightley-Smith, 21 Wilton Pieterson, 22 Rudolf Prinsloo, 23 Clayton Allem.
Referee: Marius van der Westhuizen
TMO: Johann Meuwesen