Vrede backs the boytjies

The University of the Free State Shimlas scrumhalf, Chadd Adams. Adams forms part of the Shimlas leadership group for the 2023 Varsity Cup. PHOTO: ASEM ENGAGE

The University of the Free State Shimlas will prepare for the upcoming Varsity Cup in Vrede this weekend when they take on the ever-tricky Wits in a warm-up game.

The match in the agricultural town will form part of the rugby day organised by the local community. The goal behind the event is to have top-class rugby action in the town that has a strong Shimlas following. In addition to the Shimlas tackling Wits, the Kovsies Young Guns teams will also get to test their mettle when they face the University of Johannesburg’s Young Guns.

For the Shimlas the match against Wits will be an important outing as they prepare for their opening match of the Varsity Cup that will be played away to the defending champions, the University of Pretoria Tuks, a little more than a week later.

The farmers in the community paid for a bus to transport the Shimlas to Vrede, while the school is using the event as fundraising for grade 11 pupils and the rugby programme. They plan to make it an annual event that will see the Shimlas face a different opposition each year.

The brainchild behind the initiative is the long-time former Shimlas manager, Dr Riaan Schoeman, who now resides in Vrede, remains actively involved in rugby by coaching the sport at the Vrede Skool.

“When I moved to Vrede at the end of 2019, a lot of the people knew that I was involved with the Shimlas,” Schoeman told Bloemfontein Courant.

“When I started talking to them you could immediately hear that they liked the Varsity Cup and they think it’s a great competition. Unfortunately, Vrede is a little isolated and away from it all. It’s a rural area, so you’re not able to go and watch the games live in the cities on Mondays.

“So I phoned André Tredoux, Jaco Swanepoel, and Marius van Rensburg and pitched my plan. I told them these people like Varsity Cup rugby and there are a lot of Shimlas supporters here, so why not give them a live game at home. Whether it’s just a warm-up, it will be awesome.

“There will be beer tents, potjiekos on the Friday, and the Young Guns will also be playing. It’s going to be a whole weekend out for the people in Vrede, and just to get a taste of Varsity Cup rugby. It’s just about bringing a little of the professional game to the rural areas.”

The rugby in Vrede will kick off at 12:15 on Saturday with Kovsies Young Guns vs. UJ Young Guns; while at 14:00 the Shimlas will tackle Wits. – MORGAN PIEK