FNB Madibaz rugby captain Arnouw Nel has firmly rejected any thoughts of complacency as his team gear up for their opening FNB Varsity Shield match in Gqeberha on Thursday.
The Nelson Mandela University outfit begin their programme against Tshwane University of Technology Vikings at Madibaz Stadium, kicking off at 4pm.
Despite having come down from the top-tier Varsity Cup competition, in which they competed for the past two years, Nel was convinced that they would still face a proper examination this season.
“Just because we have come from the Varsity Cup I don’t think there is a particular target on our backs because I think every team is a target,” said the 22-year-old flank.
“No team will be better than the other and what’s on paper doesn’t mean anything when the competition starts.”
Nel, who will lead the Gqeberha side for the second year running, was adamant that all the teams would start on a level playing field and he believed that any team could get the better of any other side on the day.
“For me it will be the team who are able to produce the most consistent performances throughout the season who will end on top.”
The captain added that they would only look as far ahead as the next fixture and that their attention was now on the challenge presented by the TUT Vikings.
“Our focus will be on looking to execute what we have been doing in training and implementing that in all our matches.
“Obviously, a home win would be an ideal start but, as I’ve said before, the key element to success will be maintaining a state of consistency throughout the competition.”
Concentrating on their core values and processes, sticking to the systems in place and taking it one day at a time would be the best way to achieve that, he said.
“The competition isn’t won on the 13th of April (the day of the final) – it is won every day.”
Although the Madibaz were relegated last year, Nel remained positive about what they were trying to achieve.
“Obviously it is not what we wanted, but it’s the nature of the beast. It allows us to continue to grow our systems and structures so that we can stay competitive and hopefully return to the Varsity Cup in the years to come.”
He said they were motivated by the fact that this would be a promotion-relegation year between the two competitions.
“It’s something that has been at the back of our minds since we dropped out of Varsity Cup and it’s definitely a driving force to make sure we put ourselves in the best position to achieve promotion.
“But again, it’s about taking it one step at a time and not getting ahead of ourselves.”
At the end of the 2023 programme, the team ending bottom of the Varsity Cup log will be relegated to the Varsity Shield, while the team finishing top of the Varsity Shield log will be promoted.
The team who finish seventh on the Varsity Cup log will play in a promotion-relegation match on April 17 against the team who finish second on the Varsity Shield log.