UFH - Salusiwe Gxekwa - Rugby

The margin for costly errors is quickly diminishing for the Blues as the fast-paced FNB Varsity Shield rugby competition races towards the halfway mark.

After successive losses, the defending Shield champions got their title bid back on track with a decisive 45-0 victory over Rhodes last week.

Coach Lumumba Currie was visibly a happier man following that performance, especially after a clinical second-half display.

However, he noted that they still had some way to go ahead of Thursday’s away game against the University of KwaZulu-Natal.

Playing UKZN at home was always a tricky affair and Currie expected them “to come at us with everything” following a big loss to Tshwane University of Technology.

“Because this is a promotion-relegation year, nobody wants to end up at the bottom of the log and that is why every match is going to be tough.”

Even though victory against the team from Makhanda would have done wonders for Fort Hare’s confidence, the coach believed that their execution needed to be spot-on if they were to bag a brace of victories in as many weeks.

Qualifying for the Shield playoffs was an absolute must for the Alice team, said Currie.

UFH - Salusiwe Gxekwa - Rugby

FNB University of Fort Hare wing Salusiwe Gxekwa goes on the attack in their FNB Varsity Shield rugby match against Rhodes last week. The Blues won 45-0 and will now take on the University of KwaZulu-Natal in their opponents’ backyard on Thursday. Photo: Supplied

They had a clean sheet in taking the 2022 title, but he admitted that making a run at the top spot as the defending champions was an entirely different proposition due to the pressure of expectation.

He said now was the time to box clever to ensure a spot in the playoffs before turning their attention to the big prize.

“If we get our minds in the right place, it is possible.”

Having lost seven players from last year’s all-conquering squad, the Blues mentor said this season was all about building the new players towards competing at this level.

“That’s never an easy phase because there is also a need to perform; you still need to produce the results.”

Currie said he had refrained from changing the team much since their opening game as he didn’t want to chop and change just because they were going through a rough patch.

“We need to show faith in the players and keep encouraging them to improve and learn from their mistakes.”

He was happy with the systems they had put in place and therefore the focus was now entirely on eliminating individual errors.

“We just haven’t been clinical enough. Even against Rhodes we only led 10-0 at halftime after missing scoring chances due to poor decision-making.”

They were however able to rectify that in the second half with a change of mindset, he said.

“We were direct and decisive. Every time we got into a good position, we scored.

“That will have been a big boost for our confidence,” said Currie, who felt the remainder of the campaign would be all about execution.