It is not good enough for the FNB Madibaz to achieve their goals occasionally if they want to be competitive in varsity rugby.
This was captain Arnouw Nel’s message to his fellow players ahead of the start of their FNB Varsity Shield campaign at home against the Tshwane University of Technology Vikings on February 16.
“We understand from past seasons that consistency is one of the most important elements to achieving success,” said the 22-year-old flanker, who will lead the squad for the second year running.
The Gqeberha side spent two lean years in the Varsity Cup – the highest tier of the competition – but finished bottom of the combined log after a solitary victory over those seasons to be relegated to the Shield tournament for 2023.
Nel said it was “a huge honour and privilege” to be retained as captain for the upcoming season.
Being in charge of a side on the field is not a new experience for the player who learnt his rugby in Makhanda as a youngster. He sharpened his teeth for the role by captaining various teams during his school career at Graeme College.
“I take it very seriously,” said the final-year human movement science student as the squad put in the finishing touches to their preparation. “As a captain I try to lead by example both on and off the field.”
He called on his teammates to show the dedication and deliver the consistency required to be successful at this level.
“Because I know what they are capable of,” he reiterated.
Leading from the front in all aspects was essential for any captain, said Nel, who played for Eastern Province in the Craven Week and Currie Cup rugby for the EP U19 and U20 teams.
“Be that through my work-rate during matches or training, or trying to achieve consistency in my play, I believe that is so important.”
In addition, he believed taking every available opportunity to boost his players’ morale was intrinsic to the job description.
Nel believed that they had learnt valuable lessons in the highest tier and that they could apply these in their Varsity Shield matches.
“It’s not good enough to occasionally achieve your goals,” he challenged his teammates.
“It’s a case of putting in your best performance week after week. So that is something we really want to achieve.”
He explained that depth had always been an Achilles heel for Madibaz.
“It’s something we have focused on during the pre-season through tough competition for positions in the side. I believe this will be beneficial in the long run.”
There is a hunger among all the players in the squad to do well, he noted.
“Our goal is to leave the jersey and university in a better place going forward, obviously with the ultimate objective of making it back into the Varsity Cup competition.”