UJ women’s rugby team triumphs as Mastercard Pirates Grand Challenge champions

While celebrations reverberated throughout the country as South Africans commemorated Women’s Day, the University of Johannesburg’s (UJ) Senior Women’s rugby team also marked the day in style. The Orange Army was crowned champions of the 2023 Mastercard Pirates Grand Challenge after defeating Pirates Women’s Rugby Team 29-10 on Wednesday, 09 August 2023 at the Pirates Club Grounds in Greenside.

UJ claimed the title following a four-year hiatus since their last win in 2018. The UJ team boasted both new and experienced players in their squad.

“This win means so much to us because the last time we won this cup was in 2018. In 2021, we lost 38-0 to Pirates Women’s Rugby Team. Last year, we could make to the finals. So, winning this year means so much to us,” says Prescilla Sithole, Captain: UJ Senior Women’s Rugby Team.

Sithole added that it was great to win the cup with the recently added players who brought new energy to the team. “We have young and new players who only joined the UJ team this year and seeing them lift the trophy means they have grown so much in the sport. This was clearly visible in their performances,” says Sithole.

One of the new players, Ntsako Mbombi, presented a good account of herself on the pitch. Madea Usman, an experienced UJ senior player, also made a positive contribution.

UJ Rugby Assistant Coach, Nontuthuko Shongwe, who coached the team in the Grand Challenge, said, “We have been preparing for the whole season for this challenge. The majority of our players were playing for the provincial matches, so we had to upskill and robe a lot of the junior players so that they can step in. It’s nice that we can achieve this something so great even though some of them only started playing this year. If we work together, we can do great things.

She added, “As we celebrate Women’s Day and Month, I wanted to say to the other women out there that we are powerful beyond measure. If we believe in ourselves and keep pushing the limits, there is no obstacle that could stop us from doing and achieving great things. This was a great opportunity on both UJ’s and Pirates’ sides to play on Women’s Day to showcase women’s rugby – it’s just as entertaining as men’s sport.”

Speaking on the Women’s Day commemoration, Sithole said “As we celebrate Women’s Day and Month, I think that it would be a good thing to have more female players who play 15s rugby because that helps them play at provincial level – this also helps the coaches to select players who already understand the game fully. Today, we held trials and a coaching clinic for the Under20 girls who are in matric and Grade 11, it’s a good step in promoting and growing women’s rugby in the country. These are girls who wish to study at UJ next year and in the coming years.

“I’d to thank the UJ Senior Men’s Rugby Varsity Cup Head Coach, Mr Jonathan Mukwena, who was also in our midst, as well as Ms Nontuthuko Shongwe for her sterling guidance in the tournament,” says Captain Sithole.

The UJ rugby team shifts their focus to club championships and the upcoming University Sport South Africa (USSA) 7s rugby tournament which will be organised in September.

The two teams played a 10-a-side setup due to the other teams not having 23-team-member players.

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