Impi confident ahead of Shield final

2015-04-01 00:00

UKZN Impi coach Ryan Strudwick hailed his side’s first half performance in their 42-0 win over the University of Fort Hare, which sealed their spot in the Varsity Shield final next week.

The Impi needed to win the match with a bonus point to ensure their spot in the final against Wits next week. But the UKZN boys came out firing and did the job in the first 40 minutes, which pleased their coach immensely.

“We knew if we gave them a sniff we would have a long night ahead of us so the plan was to blow them out of the game as quickly as possible,” Strudwick told The Witness yesterday.

The Impi did exactly that, scoring four tries before the half-hour mark. With their objective complete, the KZN side did well to keep the visitors scoreless for the rest of the night, while adding more points to the scoreboard.

“We couldn’t afford to give them any space on attack, so our one big objective was to work hard on defence. We looked to hit them hard and chop legs, which we executed very well.

“At half time I challenged the boys to keep Fort Hare scoreless and I have to take my hat off to them, we could have easily fallen asleep after the break,” Strudwick said.

Play got rather sloppy in the second half, but the conditions weren’t great. Overcast conditions left plenty of moisture on the field and handling errors sky-rocketed. But Strudwick also believes he may have made too many changes, which also exacerbated the error count.

“There were plenty of errors in the second half. I think making all eight changes didn’t help us either, but we wanted to save some of our guys for the final …”

Nevertheless the Impi kept the visitors from crossing the whitewash, while adding two more tries to their tally — one of which was Marius Louw’s third of the night. The hard-running centre has been a standout for the Impi and Strudwick believes he has an exciting future ahead.

“He’s been massive, he’s scored eight tries in the last four games for us. We missed him when he was out injured, but since he’s been back he’s been amazing. We are trying to get him into the SA U20 trials — we believe he is good enough to be there.”

The Impi also made a huge statement upfront ahead of their clash with Wits next week. Their set-pieces functioned superbly on Monday night, and they will be looking to take that to the physical Johannesburg side.

“I was really happy with our scrumming, we had Chris de Beer back at hooker and we tinkered with our front row, which worked as well. Our lineouts were also solid.”

Looking to the final, Strudwick said his side had the belief they could produce the goods, even though they have lost two games to Wits this season.

Regular starting flyhalf Innocent Radebe and powerful centre Marcel Coetzee are back in the selection mix after injuries.

“We have a big selection dilemma, but that’s a good problem to have. We should be at full strength, although the wild card rule means we will have to leave a couple of guys out.”

The Impi will be buoyed by Wits’ draw with UWC on Monday, and they have more momentum going into the final than the hosts.

“We’re feeling pretty confident; we pushed them really close in our last clash. It is a final, anything can happen …” Strudwick cautioned.

The final kicks off at 4.30 pm next Monday at the Wits stadium in Johannesburg.

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