Shimlas kick off on a winning note

Shimlas winger, Mosolwa Mafuma, on his way to the line for what turned out to be the deciding try. PHOTO: THYS LOMBARD / SASPA

The defending Varsity Cup rugby champions, the University of the Free State Shimlas, kicked off their title defence with a hard-fought 23-17 win over the University of Cape Town Ikeys at the Green Mile on Monday evening.

The game was not by any means entertaining but a thrilling affair nonetheless.

The visitors from Bloemfontein played with the wind in the first half but were left frustrated, with handling errors on both sides, seeing just seven points scored in the first half.

The defending champions opened the scoring early in the match with centre Arthur Williams crashing over for a try, which was duly converted by Stephan Janse van Rensburg.

The remainder of the first 40 minutes proved to be a slug fest in the windy conditions and the score remained unchanged.

Ikeys came back strongly after the break, scoring through fullback Khanyo Ncgukana, albeit it a contentious score, but the tries by Nardus Erasmus, Mosolwa Mafuma, which included a nine-pointer, secured the win.

Shimlas skipper, Neil Claassen, conceded that the wind heading in the direction of the infamous “hospital corner” made matters challenging.

“The wind made it difficult, but we really stuck to our guns so we’re happy and we will definitely take the points.”

The visitors’ defence as well as their work at scrum was something they can be proud of, however, they will want to focus on their handling heading into their match against the University of Pretoria Tuks in the Jacaranda City.

In Pretoria, last year’s losing finalists, North West University Pukke, opened their campaign on a positive note with a 38-15 mauling of Tuks at the Tuks Stadium.

Barend Janse van Rensburg scored a brace for the men from Potchefstroom, which included the first ever nine-point try in world rugby.

In Stellenbosch, the Central University of Technology Ixias’ woes in Varsity Cup rugby continued with a 40-0 thrashing at the hands of the University of Stellenbosch Maties. Beyers de Villiers, Kobus van Dyk, Theo Stapelberg, Craig Corbett and Jacobus van der Merwe all crossed the white wash for the visitors at the Danie Craven Stadium.

Ixias coach, Skillie Bester, and his lads will have their work cut out for them if they want to change their fortune in the tour ahead of their match against the dangerous Ikeys in Bloemfontein.

In Monday evening’s fourth game, the University of Johannesburg edged the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University Madibaz 19-12 on the Highveld.