UFH - Rugby - Sive Maxham (Assistent coach) Ryan Maree (Vice Captain)

The defensive tenacity shown by the University of Fort Hare Blues in their FNB Varsity Shield opener against UP-Tuks has given them plenty of encouragement ahead of their first away match.

Caretaker-coach Sive Maxham said his young side were in “high spirits” for tomorrow’s (Thursday) clash against Shield new boys Varsity College.

Though the Blues went down 0-36 to student rugby titans Tuks, relegated to the second tier for the first time at the end of last season, they had excellent moments in defence and “played till the last second”.

Maxham was also pleased with their tactical kicking.

“As coaches we were happy with elements of the game, especially if you consider that we are a young team with many boys straight out of high school.”

He said Tuks was a first-class rugby school and that UFH had “defended their honour” throughout the match.

Standing up and being counted against a big-wheel opponent meant that there was no reason for Fort Hare to go into the Varsity College game in a negative frame of mind, he said.

Varsity College announced their arrival in the Shield with a 27-0 victory over Tshwane University of Technology, a result Maxham had noted with interest as their style of play was not too dissimilar to that of Tuks.

UFH - Rugby - Sive Maxham (Assistent coach) Ryan Maree (Vice Captain)

Fort Hare caretaker-coach Sive Maxham, right, and vice-captain Ryan Maree are planning to topple Varsity College in their own backyard in their FNB Varsity Shield match on Thursday. Photo: Full Stop Communications

However, UFH are choosing to focus on developing their own game and perfecting their systems.

“Obviously, I can’t give too much detail,” the coach said earlier this week.

“We’ve had a good week of practice where we’ve really focused on preparing the boys mentally and working on our attack.”

Maxham acknowledged that the Alice varsity were in a building phase, but also that there were signs that they could go places in the near future.

No one can deny that the 33-year-old, who was born and bred in the Eastern Cape town and supported the Blues since childhood, knows what it takes to win.

He took his place on the coaching team in 2021 and played a key role in UFH’s historic Varsity Shield victory the following year.

He has also won two titles with Fort Hare’s Sevens side, including a Shield trophy at the University Sports South Africa tournament.

Maxham’s rugby pedigree is driven in large part by his passion for the club.

“I loved this team growing up. I even carried people’s bags and travelled with the team for away games.

“I used to sit in the passage of the bus. I played for the Blues myself. Now I’m a coach for the team. It’s a big honour.”

He enjoys the positivity that fellow coaches Chase Morison, Vuyisani Mavuso and Yamkela Mahintsho, who was part of the title-winning side in 2022, bring to the table.

Captain Kamvelihle Fatyela has also become a personal talisman.

“He was captain in all the titles I’ve won. It’s good to have him around; he understands how we play,” Maxham enthused.

“He becomes the extra coach in terms of leadership.”

The match against Varsity College kicks off at 7pm.