Great rugby action coming to PMB

2015-01-21 00:00

RUGBY is coming to Pietermaritzburg in a big way on Friday night, as the Sharks’ Vodacom Cup side will be in action against Varsity Cup side NWU-Pukke at UKZN’s Peter ­Booysen Park.

The match forms part of a double-header of warm-up matches that will also see UKZN Impi play Community Cup side Durban’s College Rovers.

Nic Haswell, UKZN Impi’s Pietermaritzburg chairperson, is looking forward to hosting sides involved in the Varsity Cup, Varsity Shield, Community Cup and Vodacom Cup.

“It’s exciting to have this calibre of rugby up in Pietermaritzburg and we invite everyone to come down and watch the two games,” Haswell said.

In less than two weeks, UKZN Impi will kick off their 2015 Varsity Shield campaign against the University of the Western Cape.

The match against Rovers is the last chance Impi have to finalise game play and structures before the tournament begins.

As warm-up matches, both games will be played in four 20-minute chukkas to allow teams to test out combinations and players.

UKZN played their first warm-up match of the year last Friday against Durban Collegians in the same four-chukka format. The sides scored six tries apiece, which both pleased and worried Impi head coach Ryan ­Strudwick.

“We were quite evenly matched even though the conditions were pretty bad — it was very windy. It was a nice hit out and we learnt a lot, but also have plenty to work on,” ­Strudwick told The Witness.

On a positive note, Strudwick was happy to run in six tries although he conceded they had scored a couple of soft tries.

“But it was good that we created some quality opportunities. I was just a bit upsetting that we let in six tries,” he said.

With that in mind, the side focused on defence and conditioning during yesterday’s training session.

“We will be working closely on our defence and our fitness this week, ­especially considering Collegians ran in one try at the death.”

The nature of warm-up matches places more emphasis on testing players and depth as opposed to looking for positive results. That meant Strudwick was able to test more than 30 players in his squad.

“We picked up a few injuries on ­Friday, but that usually happens in the first games of the season. We are down to around 28 guys but I’m ­happy with the squad.”

Looking towards their fixture against College Rovers, Strudwick said it would be business as usual.

“We’ll be looking at a few more combinations, implementing a ­couple of new moves and focusing on ­defence.”

Both matches will be played at ­Peter Booysen Park at UKZN Pietermaritzburg campus on Friday night.

Impi are still waiting for results for three of their players — as new rules in the Varsity Cup and Shield require players to have earned a certain ­number of credits to play in the ­competition.

“It’s not ideal, but we are not the only side affected,” Strudwick said.

The coach also said a number of UKZN’s junior players who are ­contracted to the Sharks are likely to feature in both matches, as the Sharks Vodacom Cup side is making use of Sharks U21 players.

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