Impi players to get chance to impress Mitchell

2014-01-09 00:00

WATCHING an intensive UKZN Impi training session at the Varsity Rugby Stadium on the Pietermaritzburg campus yesterday, it was apparent that the squad’s expert coaching staff are demanding high-level skills from the hopefuls in this their third camp.

And, the 40-odd players get a chance to impress Impi head coach John Mitchell and his panel from 6 pm today, when a full-contact Probables versus Possibles trials match is on at the Peter Booysen Sports Park ground, off Golf Road, Scottsville.

There will be several current SA U20 players in the trials match as well as a host of KZN and South Africa’s most promising young talent, all of whom are vying for berths in the Impi’s final Varsity Shield line-up. With such fierce competition for coveted slots in the final team, no favours will be asked or given.

Former All Blacks head coach Mitchell has long spoken of his wish for the local public to get behind their university team during the impending Varsity Shield campaign and to this end has invited the KZN Midlands community to come along this evening to enjoy some quality early-season rugby, as well as refreshments at Frans Vorster’s Sinbin Pub and Restaurant in the grandstand, where “Mitch” and company will be available for a drink and some post-match banter.

“We have some outstanding talent on display. It would be fantastic to see local rugby fans come out and support their boys,” Mitchell told The Witness. “The boys’ work ethic is of the highest order and they have developed a close bond.”

PMB-raised Impi backline and kicking coach Butch James, the celebrated Springbok World Cup winner, is putting in the hard yards with players at the camp while forwards coach Ryno Combrinck, lineout specialist Ryan Strudwick and technical analyst Dylan Campbell are also very busy, with the hugely experienced Mitchell directing proceedings. Back-up staff Bryce Jackson, the biokineticist, and team manager Wayne le Roux complete the most professional set-up in the university’s 102-year rugby history.

Following the trial match, an Impi team will be picked at camp-end tomorrow to take on Varsity Cup side Wits University, UKZN’s traditional rivals, on Tuesday (January 14) at Harrismith Rugby Club, just over the KZN border in the Free State.

“We want to test ourselves against a Varsity Cup team, and UKZN has a time-honoured friendly rivalry with Wits, so they were the logical choice of opponent,” said Mitchell. “Wits outperformed more fancied teams in the Grand Challenge last year, beating both UJ [University of Johannesburg] and Pukke [University of the North West] so we look forward to the challenge.”

The Impi will then tackle the Duikers at 3.30 pm on Saturday, January 18 at Howard College on the Durban campus in the opening match of the KZN rugby season. Maritzburg Collegians head coach Carel Nel has been appointed Duikers coach.

The university/Duikers match carries historical significance, as the combined then-Natal University beat this 58-years-long KZN selection team in the Duikers’ first ever match in 1956, with the Duikers avenging that defeat in the UKZN Centenary match at King’s Park in 2011.

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