Exciting times for Maritzburg Varsity rugby

2010-03-24 00:00

THE excitement surrounding Maritzburg Varsity Rugby Club is building.

Now in their 99th year, Varsity have made a concerted effort to climb out of the hole they were in the past two seasons.

Being bottom of the KZN Premier Division log again now seems out of the question, based on their new signings — in effect a brand-new squad and more — and their performance in the Ronnie van Rooyen Memorial Day at the weekend.

Varsity went into their matches against power club Old Boys with mixed first and second sides — a wise option in that not finalising the first XV squad yet is keeping the 40-odd players focused.

The “first” side lost 14-3 to Old Boys firsts at Harlequins, while the “seconds” easily beat Old Boys seconds 25-0. What is heartening is that Varsity were way below par: plenty of tries were left on the table through poor finishing, but the fact that they are creating try-scoring opportunities aplenty brings much hope after the barren last two seasons.

Also of interest is that they are playing Old Boys in the keenly awaited Prem Div season opener at the Varsity Stadium in the Peter Booysen Sports Park off Golf Road on Saturday, April 10. Furthermore, despite a far from satisfying showing in the eyes of the Varsity players and their brains trust, the Durban clubs were impressed.

Go-ahead Varsity club secretary Shane le Breton told The Witness yesterday that there are over 180 names in the new Maritzburg Varsity Rugby Club Facebook group; a beerfest is planned for supporters on the day of the Old Boys clashes at Varsity Stadium, and what was initially looking to be a source of concern is now looking to be an embarrassment of riches.

The tireless Le Breton announced that Varsity have signed tighthead prop Rhys Burgess, who is on contract to a French club at the moment and has been swapping it up front with some of the French ogres of the front row in the European season; young Midlands Rugby Academy student Luciando Santos put his hand up with outstanding performances against Old Boys; rejuvenated warhorse and last season’s co-captain with loose forward Le Breton, tighthead prop Derek Clifton — easily one of the top three Prem Div tightheads for a number of years now — is back in the saddle; and Gareth Allan, something of an unknown quantity from Durban Collegians, is at Varsity practice this week on trial.

Another snippet of exciting news is the impending announcement of the new Varsity first XV captain, and he’s one of the new crop of 30-plus players who have joined Varsity primarily from Durban, and College Rovers in particular, this season.

On the same lines as Harlequins named the annual Ronnie van Rooyen Memorial Day after a club stalwart, a wonderful tribute to the selfless contribution Ralph Cawood made to youth rugby would be if the Primary Schools’ Day/Night Series at Woodburn were named after him.

The esteem in which Cawood was held in local rugby circles could be measured by the large turnout at his memorial service in the Michaelhouse chapel last week.



Firsts: Crusaders 22 College Rovers 14; Old Boys 14 PMB Varsity 3; DBN Collegians 22 Harlequins 5; Jaguars 33 Amanzimtoti 22. Seconds: College Rovers 10 Crusaders 0; DBN Collegians 19 Harlequins 5; PMB Varsity 25 Old Boys 0. U20A: College Rovers 92 Jaguars 3; Durban Collegians 48 Pietermaritzburg 22; Empangeni 38 Old Boys 5. U20B: Durban Collegians 22 Pietermaritzburg 16. U20C: Empangeni B 41 Old Boys C 17; Wentworth 24 Ogwini 12; PMB Varsity A 6 Pietermaritzburg C 3.

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