The 2023 FNB Varsity Cup rugby tournament gets underway on Monday, 20 February 2023 and the University of Johannesburg (UJ) senior rugby team is ready for the challenge. For the second season, FNB UJ goes into the tournament led by two co-captains, Kelvin Kanenungo and Buhlebenkosi Qaba, who will share the responsibility of guiding the team in their quest for lifting the trophy.
Under the leadership of Head Coach, Jonathan Mukuena, FNB UJ will be approaching the 2023 campaign differently with a squad made up of new and returning players. In 2022, the Orange Army gave a good account of themselves on the pitch, narrowly losing few games with marginal points. In their 2022 games, FNB UJ played with more vigor in the first halves of the matches and took the foot off the pedal in the second halves. They finished in 6th place on the log.
However, this year, FNB UJ has prepared well for the season. Their early return to the training grounds in January will be tested during their opening match against North West University (NWU Pukke) on Monday, 20 January 2023 at the Fanie Du Toit Sports Ground at NWU at 19:00.
Previously, FNB UJ finished in critical positions on the log in the 2020 and 2021 FNB Varsity Cup tournaments, risking relegation. The arrival of Coach Mukuena proved to have made a difference, moving FNB UJ out of the relegation zone in 2022. Out of the nine (9) matches played in the 2022 season, FNB UJ won four, lost four and drew one.
Ahead of their opening encounter, Coach Mukuena says, “I believe the many weeks we have spent in preparation for this tournament have been on point. We had a few disappointments with a few players not being able to come through but that is part of coaching, and it allows the next players to prove themselves. Generally, we are happy with where we are and hopefully, with time, we will see a few new stars emerge out of UJ rugby.”
After the UJ-NWU match, UJ will face Wits University in a highly anticipated Johannesburg derby on Monday, 27 February 2023 at the Wits Stadium. The Orange Army will play their first home game on Monday, 06 March 2023 against FNB UCT Ikeys at the UJ Stadium in Westdene.
A number of new faces feature in both the FNB UJ squad line-up and management. Co-captain Kanenungo says, “Well, the goal is pretty straight forward, it’s winning the competition. If we do not win it, we will finish in the top 4 positions. As a group, this year we are adding more intensity and aggression to our game.”
Co-captain Qaba added, “We have to make the right decisions at the right times and that comes from confidence and the training sessions we had. This will put us where we want to be in terms of winning games in the tournament.”
Unlike the previous campaign, this year FNB UJ will have a tougher programme as they will have less home games. Their pre-season preparations will come handy for their away games, having played friendly matches against the Griffons and UP-Tuks a few weeks ago.
For all the 2023 FNB Varsity Cup fixtures and tickets, visit the Varsity Cup website. Check the UJ Sport Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts for live scores and the latest sports updates.