Score line belies Impi’s game against Wits

2015-03-18 00:00

A STRONG start from Wits proved to be the difference as UKZN Impi went down 40-26 in the second meeting between the teams in the Varsity Shield in Johannesburg on Monday night.

The visitors were outclassed in the opening 20 minutes of the game, but managed to make strong comebacks several times, scoring four tries of their own to Wits’ five.

Coach Ryan Strudwick said his side’s slow start cost them once again. “It was a case of them running away with it in the beginning of the match. We were slow out the blocks and I gave them a big talking to at half time,” Strudwick told The Witness yesterday.

Wits scored in the first quarter of the game before Impi captain Lwazi Ngcungama scored to make it even-stevens at 8-all. But the hosts pulled ahead with two converted tries before half-time to make it 24-8.

After some stern words from Strudwick, the Impi came out firing and scored the first try of the second stanza through flyhalf Rowan Gouws. But Wits hit back soon after with another converted try.

Impi inside centre Marius Louw, who has been a standout performer this season, then scored again for the visitors to reduce the margin again.

A missed conversion from Spa Dube, that would have brought Impi within a converted try, but left a buffer for the hosts to work with. Wits used it to scored two more tries to put the game out of reach and in doing so denied Impi a vital bonus point.

The loss means Impi now need to win their final round-robin game if they are to face Wits in the Varsity Shield final.

Despite their second loss to the former Varsity Cup side, Strudwick said his side are finally starting to believe they can beat the tournament favourites.

“Once we had the belief, we started to play some good rugby in the second half. We were within eight points, but those two missed conversions made life tough. We should have been 32-all and then it would have been a completely different story,” the coach said.

“It was a lot closer than the score line suggests. But our defence let us down and their inside centre Marx Coch ran through us on several occasions. Our lineout also didn’t function, I think we only won three out of ten or so — it was one of those nights where nothing seemed to go right.”

“But the big thing is that we now know we can beat them if we cut out our errors and tighten up our defence.

“We put Wits on a pedestal after losing so badly to them in the third round. But the guys know they’re beatable.”

The Impi now have a full week’s break before they face the University of Fort Hare in the final round on March 30. Strudwick said the break is a welcome relief, as his charges are both physically and mentally fatigued after some tough clashes.

It also gives a number of injured players a chance to finally recover for the last push of the competition.

With promotion to the Varsity Cup not happening this year, the Impi are now focusing on playing for the Shield title.

“We need to beat Fort Hare to make sure we get into the final, then from there it’s all about winning the trophy,” Strudwick said.

Monday night’s Varsity Shield results:

UWC 66-10 TUT

Wits 40-26 UKZN Impi

Varsity Shield log

(with two rounds still to play)

PL W D L PD BP PTS

Wits 6 5 1 0 200 6 28

UKZN 7 5 0 2 66 3 23

UWC 6 3 1 2 47 3 17

UFH 6 2 0 4 -120 4 12

TUT 7 0 0 7 -201 3

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