FNB Wits were happy with their hard-fought 23-14 win in Alice on Monday, but would like to deliver a more polished performance when they take on UWC in their first Varsity Shield home game on Thursday.
The atmosphere at the Davidson Rugby Field in Alice was electric in the opening game of the inaugural Varsity Shield on Monday and the enthusiastic home crowd played their part in pressurising the visitors.
However, the Men from Johannesburg weathered the early storm – as Fort Hare led 6-0 early in the first half and also by 9-8 at half-time – to register a crucial away victory.
“The vibe was brilliant, the crowd came out in numbers and the support was excellent,” said Wits head coach Andrew Royle on Wednesday morning.
“I think in the opening exchanges the nerves got to the players a bit and as the game went on we found our stride and the players started playing much better,” he added.
Royle (pictured, above) is adamant that his side is capable of producing better quality rugby, but was satisfied with the result considering the unique – and historic – circumstances.
He told varsitycup.co.za: “There is huge room for improvement, it was far from a perfect performance but we were happy with the win.
“Everything was new for the players, a lot of players were playing their first big game, their first travel game and even for some of them it was their first time on a plane! But, that said, I felt that the boys dealt with the pressure quite well,” he added.
Despite his team’s nine-point win, Royle is under no illusions as to the magnitude of the challenge that awaits his team in their next fixture, against FNB UWC on Thursday, the team from Bellville having thrashed UKZN by 33-9 on Monday.
“Home games come with their own pressures as well but we would like to see an improvement in our performance on Thursday, I think the guys have got to man-up and play a lot better,” he said.
Royle will look to the same group of players that did the business against Fort Hare to deliver against the Cape-based side.
“We don’t have a lot of time to plan and plot for the UWC game on Thursday, but I can’t see that things are going to change much.
“Our hooker Sheldon Terblanche took a blow to the knee and will only see a specialist tomorrow (Wednesday), so we are holding thumbs that he will be fine,” he said.
With such a short space of time in between fixtures, the Wits boss will not have much time for analysis of the opposition or adjustments to his side’s approach in the first-ever Varsity Shield tournament.
Royle concluded: “It’s going to be tough to make wholesale changes to the way we are playing; we just want to focus on ourselves and make sure that we play well and not worry too much about the opposition.”
By Michael de Vries