The University of Johannesburg will face the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Potchefstroom on Monday afternoon in a must-win promotion-relegation match to stay in the FNB Varsity Cup, presented by Steinhoff International.
FNB UJ will have everything to play for when they meet the Varsity Shield runners-up on neutral ground at North-West University.
The game will act as the curtain raiser for the Varsity Cup final between FNB NWU-Pukke and FNB Ikeys.
The Gauteng side, which finished seventh out of eight teams, has had a disappointing tournament after reaching the semi-finals last year.
But, said new head coach Werner Janse van Rensburg, the outcome was not all doom and gloom.
“Our campaign has been one with lots of positives but obviously also disappointments.
“We knew from the start that the competition would be tough with a new and inexperienced team but we’ve already showed great progress and with a little good luck could have come close to the semi-finals.”
Janse van Rensburg said their final scorecard – one win, one draw and five losses – did not necessarily reflect their overall performance.
“We certainly played our part in this competition if you take into account that we drew with defending champions Tuks and only lost in the 82nd minute to NMMU, who pushed Pukke all the way in the semis.
“We were also on the wrong side of some bad decisions in the UCT game regarding the yellow cards, so our picture could have easily looked quite different.”
He said good collective performances had defined his team’s game throughout.
“We had solid contributions from our more experienced players like our fly-half Marais Schmidt, tighthead prop Van Zyl Botha and lock Shane Kirkwood.”
These stand-out performers were backed by youngsters like wing Michal Haznar and flanker Victor Sekekete who showed real promise, said Janse van Rensburg.
He said their do-or-die match against the UKZN Impis would not be a walkover as both teams played to Varsity Cup standards.
“They’re a very organised outfit, as they should be under the guidance of John Mitchell. They play a positive brand of rugby and will come to the party.”
Janse van Rensburg said his men would take the game one process at a time.
“We understand the value of the competition to the university and we’ll approach the game with the importance and attention it needs.
“Only a team effort will be good enough to get us through the contest. It will be important for us to minimise errors and transfer pressure, and then back our units to get points on the board.”
As far as next season was concerned, he said his team were looking to move in the right direction and get closer to the semi-finals and beyond.
“In the immediate future and the competitions still ahead, we will keep on working on our structures and making sure that we have a strong squad for the 2015 campaign.”
Janse van Rensburg said team management were not even considering the possibility of competing in the Varsity Shield.
“It’s not something we think about at this stage. Our focus is firmly on staying in the Cup.”
Three-time Shield champions FNB CUT Ixias gained automatic entry to next year’s top-level competition, while bottom-of-the-log FNB Wits dropped down into the second-tier tournament.
The University of Johannesburg will play a critical FNB Varsity Cup promotion-relegation match against the UKZN Impis in Potchefstroom on Monday. Photo: Mario van de Wall/SASPA
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