The Shimlas need the luck of the Irish

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MORGAN PIEK

Bloemfontein – The University of the Free State Shimlas will be under immense pressure as they try and sneak into the play-offs of the Varsity Cup as they face the NMMU Madibaz in their final round-robin game of the season.

The boys from Bloemfontein still have a mathematical chance of making the four semi-finals spots on offer. However, it won’t be easy.

With Monday being St. Patricks’ Day, the Shimlas will need the luck of the Irish on their side.

As it stands, the Shimlas are languishing down in the sixth spot on the log with 13 points following two wins, one draw and three losses from their six matches played to date. Above them are Maties and Tuks who are both on 16 points, with two teams facing-off in the North-South Derby in Stellenbosch.

Apart from getting a full-house of points against the confident Madibaz and preventing the visitors from getting any points out of the match, a big favour by either the two teams playing at the Danie Craven Stadium will be needed. However, a draw in the heart of South Africa’s wine lands won’t do the Shimlas any good.

To make matters a bit worse for the Shimlas, that big leveller in rugby – rain, is still around. Weather predictions in Bloemfontein are not looking good for the men in the royal blue jerseys.

The Shimlas are at their best when they play the running rugby they’re renowned for, and with heavy rain predicted until at least next week Thursday, a tighter encounter is on the cards.

Furthermore, the visitors will back themselves after beating Tuks 19-9 at the soaked LC de Villiers Sports Grounds on Monday evening in a game which reminded one of the Springboks 1995 World Cup semi-final at King’s Park in Durban.

Counting in the Shimlas favour is the fact that they have been able to play running rugby in wet conditions by beating the UJ on a wet Shimla Park in the rain. On the day, they ran out 52-13 victors.

The side are boosted with the return of fullback Ludwig Erasmus, who missed the trip to Cape Town due to a concussion. Gouws Prinsloo slots back in at flyhalf with the return of the exciting fullback.

The only other change in the side sees Sethu Tom don the number 11 jumper, with Divandré Strydom warming the bench.

Even with all the pressure on their shoulders to progress to the qualifiers, the Free State side approach the game with a “nothing to lose” attitude.

UFS-Shimlas – 15 Ludwig Erasmus, 14 Maphuta Dolo, 13 Tertius Kruger, 12 Joubert Engelbrecht (captain), 11 Sethu Tom, 10 Gouws Prinsloo, 9 Kevin Luiters, 8 Gerhard Olivier, 7 Oupa Mohoje, 6 Tienie Burger, 5 Neil Claassen, 4 Armandt Koster, 3 Justin Pappin, 2 Jacques du Toit, 1 Franco van der Merwe.

Replacements – 16 Markus Odendaal, 17 Luan de Bruin, 18 Johan van der Hoogt, 19 Neill Jordaan, 20 Kay-Kay Hlongwane, 21 Franna du Toit, 22 Divandré Strydom, 23 Gideon Bruwer.

– Varsity Cup.