FNB NMMU-Madibaz skipper Kevin Kaba is banking on his team’s “never-say-die” attitude to help them overcome a tough period after two successive losses in the FNB Varsity Cup presented by Steinhoff International rugby competition.
The Port Elizabeth university have faced formidable opponents in FNB NWU-Pukke and FNB UP-Tuks in their last two matches, but Kaba is determined to encourage his teammates to play to their potential.
They face another demanding encounter when they take on Stellenbosch University in Stellenbosch on Monday.
“It’s been tough going down in the previous two games, especially in the manner in which we did,” said Kaba as he looked back on their season so far. “But the team realise that these things are part of the game and we need to get ourselves back to the level we know we’re capable of playing at.”
Despite the setbacks after a fine opening win over FNB UCT, Kaba said he had been encouraged by the team’s approach to their matches.
“The guys’ commitment and an attitude of always playing to the final whistle have been big positives and something that can’t really be coached.”
The eighth man, who was the FNB Player That Rocks in the FNB UCT game, said they had already learnt some valuable lessons following the first three rounds of Varsity Cup action.
“The main one has been how big a difference the so-called small things can make on the field. For example, guys sticking to their roles on attack and being disciplined on defence are the sorts of things we realise we have to execute more effectively.”
He added they would place a strong focus on adhering to their roles, as well as aiming for better ball retention.
“We knew how tough the competition would be before we started, but we just have to stick to our plans and work from there.”
Kaba said a number of players had stood out so far, but he stressed that their main focus was to deliver consistently good team performances. Looking ahead to Monday’s clash against FNB Maties, he said they knew they would have to be sharp.
After losing to FNB Tuks, the Stellenbosch outfit have impressed with wins over FNB Wits and FNB Pukke to lie second on the log after three rounds.
“Maties are a team who can vary their play at different stages of the game,” said the Madibaz skipper.
“We need to be alert and ready for anything they may throw at us. But we also cannot afford to let them do all the playing, so will focus on our strengths.”
While he has the senior leadership role, Kaba said there was plenty of support for him from his teammates.
“We made it clear from the beginning that every person in the set-up is a leader in their own right and we all need to act in such a manner. There is good support on and off the field in terms of decision-making.”
Madibaz starting XV: 15 Lindelwe Zungu, 14 Athi Mayinje, 13 Siphumelele Msutwana, 12 Andile Jho (vice-capt), 11 Ivan-John du Preez, 10 Thomas Kean, 9 Rouche Nel, 8 Kevin Kaba (capt), 7 Henry Brown, 6 SF Nieuwoudt, 5 Gerrit Huisamen, 4 Wynand Grassman, 3 Nicolaas Oosthuizen, 2 JP Jamieson, 1 Xandre Vos.
Replacements: Jedwyn Harty, Thembelihle Yase, Nicolas Roebeck, Janse Roux, Robert Izaks, Luvo Claassen, Jordan Koekemoer, Jixie Molapo.
By Coetzee Gouws