Kamvelihle Fatyela Blues Captain

FNB University of Fort Hare rugby captain Kamvelihle Fatyela wants to turn the Davidson Stadium into fortress for the Blues during this year’s FNB Varsity Shield competition.

The reigning Shield champions are preparing themselves for a ferocious onslaught when they open their title defence against Eastern Cape rivals Walter Sisulu University at home in Alice on Thursday (7pm).

“They will come at us with everything they’ve got,” said the versatile Fatyela, who rallies his troops with aplomb from either the flank or hooker positions.

The rivalry between the teams, considered one of the biggest derbies in the province, has all but reached cult status in the annals of Fort Hare and the latest match-up should deliver more of the same drama.

“Picking up home wins will be vital and, if we open with a victory, it will boost our confidence and send the message that ‘playing Fort Hare at Fort Hare is never easy’,” said Fatyela.

The 23-year-old explained that their opponents’ approach was centred on a fast-tempo game, with a huge appetite for running the ball.

“To deal with that, we will have to starve them of the ball. I feel our defence is a strength,” said the fourth-year education student.

Kamvelihle Fatyela Blues Captain

FNB University of Fort Hare rugby captain Kamvelihle Fatyela wants a winning start when the Blues begin the defence of their FNB Varsity Shield title against Walter Sisulu University in Alice on Thursday. Photo: Supplied

“We have developed this mindset of not wanting to concede points, which is a great attitude in the game of rugby.”

The Blues skipper called for a major team effort to emulate their successes of 2022, but acknowledged that there were key players in their squad.

“We have some who are strong ball carriers such as Ayabulela Xhosana and Walter Moyo, while Aphiwe Sidloyi has an educated boot,” he said, while reiterating that the entire squad would have to contribute.

“There are no easy matches at this level. We will treat every team the same – we will give it our all.”

An important part of their approach this year was to make sure they stayed in the fight until the final whistle, said Fatyela.

“It is not over until the ref says so and the mentality of never giving up until the very end is most definitely a lesson that we learnt last year. That is something we will stress as a priority in all our games.”

Despite winning the Shield title, there was no promotion to the top-tier Varsity Cup and Fatyela said that was a source of motivation for them.

“Not getting promoted is obviously disappointing for us, but as a team we have managed to look past that and are now focused on this competition.”

With the aim of earning promotion, he said they would leave everything “out there”.

The team who finish top of the log at the end of the 2023 programme will be promoted to the Varsity Cup. The runners-up will have their opportunity when they play a promotion-relegation match against the team who finish seventh in the top tier.