The 2023 FNB Varsity Cup campaign has been a steep chase for the University of Johannesburg’s (FNB UJ) senior men’s rugby team having lost four of five games played thus far. The Orange Army suffered a narrow 31-30 loss to the University of Free State (FNB UFS Shimlas) at Shimla Park in Bloemfontein, Free State Province on Monday, 20 March 2023.
Despite their loss, FNB UJ’s resilience gave the hosts a tough time from the opening minute of the match. Flanker Christiaan Pretorius led the way for FNB UJ with two tries, both followed by successful conversions by Rowan Malgas, giving the visitors an early lead. FNB UFS Shimlas responded with a try of their own through William Moffat and a successful conversion by Litha Nkula, but FNB UJ refused to let their heads drop with Pretorius completing his brace shortly after.
Bloemfontein went dark just 19 minutes into the game, putting a complete halt to the game. This did not deter the players, continuing their competitive spirits immediately as the referee resumed play. Although FNB UFS Shimlas held a 23-14 lead at halftime, FNB UJ continued to challenge for victory with Prince Nkabinde and Kelvin Kanenungo scoring crucial tries in the second half. Their tries almost leveled the scoreline at 31-30 in favour of the hosts just few minutes before fulltime.
The last 10 minutes were nail-biting moments as UJ sought just two points to turn the result in their favour, but it was not to be. FNB UJ had one last chance to snatch a victory at Shimla Park – in the 79th minute, they were within touching distance of a potential match-winning try, but were ultimately penalised for holding the ball on the ground.
“While the result may not have gone their way, FNB UJ’s incredible fighting spirit and never-say-die attitude is something that should be applauded. They may have lost the game, but they won the hearts of many with their determination and resilience,” said Bongani Mashiya, Manager: UJ Rugby Club.
FNB UJ will face Stellenbosch University (FNB SU Maties) in their last home match on Monday, 27 March 2023 at the UJ Stadium and play the closing group stage match on Monday, 3 April 2023 against the University of Pretoria (UP Tuks) in Tshwane. Having lost four of their five matches, the Orange Army will be looking to turn the tables in their last two matches in order to stay off the relegation zone.
FNB UJ Tries: Darnel Osuagwu, Prince Nkabinde (2) Kelvin Kanenungo (1). Conversions: Rowan Malgas (1).
FNB UFS Shimlas 31 (23) – Tries: William Moffat, Litha Nkula, Siviwe Zondani (2). Conversions: Litha Nkula (2). Penalties: Nkula (1).
FNB Player That Rocks: Siviwe Zondani (UFS)