The Rhodes University Great Field is not unfamiliar with wet and cold weather conditions, nor is the FNB Rhodes home team. The stands were packed yet again with both FNB WSU and FNB Rhodes supporters alike as the home team looked to earn their first win of the competition. Although it looked as though FNB Rhodes were playing well enough to win, they were unfortunately disappointed with a 45-15 loss.
The start of the match was an accumulation of solid tackles and runs from the home team against a significantly stronger and faster rival team. However, FNB WSU’s Athenkosi Khetani broke this thread with the game’s first try just 10 minutes in. A successful conversion by flyhalf Sinegugu Lituka put them at an 8-0 lead early on in the match.
It was not long after this that FNB Rhodes fought back with a try from Nic Butler, putting the home team on the board with five points. Later on in the first half, FNB Rhodes impressed again with a try from Uzu Nyanda. Unfortunately the conversions were missed, but FNB Rhodes were ahead with 10-8. The success of the try was dampened when Devon Barnard received the first yellow card of the match for foul play in the FNB Rhodes 22. Ntando Mfengu threatened the FNB Rhodes team as he made runs that were the length of half the field, but did not manage to break through.
FNB WSU were nowhere close to being knocked down and added to their points with a solid run followed by another try from Athenkosi Khetani. The try was successfully converted by Lituka to put the visiting team ahead at 16-10 at half time.
The second half was off to an exciting start with a try from FNB Rhodes Keagan Deponselle just four minutes in. The home team were unfortunately denied more points when Ryan Horne hit the posts in the conversion. FNB WSU came back with tenacity as they went on to score three more tries in the second half, all successfully converted. The last try was on the final whistle by Ntando Mfengu, leaving FNB Rhodes 30 points behind.
“We are releasing pressure at critical moments, and I attribute the last 20 minutes of this game to game management,” FNB Rhodes coach Qondakele Sompondo said. “And I think once fatigue kicks in our boys just lose focus. We were bullying them [FNB WSU] in scrums and our lineouts were working well and we were making good decisions all round, but when one of our players got yellow carded we lost momentum and they scored two tries.”
Without a doubt, the FNB Rhodes team has improved since their previous matches, but are still struggling with the pressure of being the newcomers to the Varsity Shield tournament.
FNB Rhodes will play their last match of the tournament against FNB UKZN in Durban on Monday 20 March at 18:30.
FNB Player that Rocks: Ntando Mfengu (FNB WSU)
FNB Rhodes: 15
Tries: Nic Butler, Uzu Nyanda, Keagan Deponselle
Yellow Cards: Devon Barnard
FNB WSU: 45
Tries: Athenkosi Khetani (2), Mihlali Mosi, Ntando Mfengu (2), Siphosihle Magawu
Conversions: Sinegugu Lituka (5)
Yellow Cards: Ludwe Jack
By Gabi Bellairs-Lombard