UFH - Rygby - Sivuyiseko Makhomazi (FSC) (1)

The University of Fort Hare are taking scintillating form into their 2024 FNB Women’s Varsity Cup campaign after handing their pre-season opponents a six-of-the-best hiding.

The Baby Blues have won all six of their friendlies, even claiming the scalps of Gqeberha legacy clubs Motherwell and Progress as they shift into overdrive for student rugby’s Holy Grail.

Their first assignment is against last year’s finalists, UJ, at the Davidson Stadium in Alice next Thursday (April 4).

Despite having as many as 10 first-years in their ranks, the class of 2024 are playing a brand of rugby that will no doubt put their rivals on high alert.

While the newcomers may be rookies in terms of the university’s set-up, they are by no means strangers to the sport.

In fact, Fort Hare coach Ntyatyambo Mkhafu has known most of them since their early teens thanks to his involvement in Border age-group rugby.

Season after season he has a huge pool of players to choose from across the Alice and East London campuses. This year, more than 80 have put their names forward for selection.

“Women’s rugby is always healthy at UFH. We are more like a hub for the Springbok team,” he said.

UFH - Rygby - Sivuyiseko Makhomazi (FSC) (1)

Fort Hare skipper Sivuyiseko Makhomazi, fresh off a training camp with the Springbok squad, will be full of confidence when the Baby Blues get their FNB Varsity Cup campaign underway next week. Photo: Full Stop Communications

Mkhafu is not exaggerating as they have produced countless players who have gone on to represent their country at U20 and senior level.

The latest to be called up is skipper Sivuyiseko Makhomazi, who trained with the Springbok side last month. Mkhafu has known her since she was 16 years old.

Fort Hare’s Varsity Cup squad comprise 35 players, all of whom are determined to go all the way after the Eastern Cape side’s semifinal exit to Maties last season.

The 7-33 scoreline on that occasion did not truly reflect the quality of the team, who won much of the territorial battle before faltering late in the game.

“Our strength this year is that we can adapt to any situation,” Mkhafu said.

“If there is running rugby, we can adapt. If the game is physical, we can adapt.”

It was the latter that he expected against UJ.

Mkhafu said the Joburg students would be smarting after their 22-26 home loss to UWC on Friday and fully expected a backlash from one of the Cup’s most robust sides.

UJ’s players were “huge and physical” and after the loss this became a must-win game for them, he said.

“Whatever we are doing, we need to have it in our minds that we must be aggressive. It is the only way we will do well.”

As much as he was not taking anything for granted, he felt that UJ’s form was still lagging compared to last season.

“I think this one [Varsity Cup] is up for grabs.

“We’ve prepared well and I have quite a bit of confidence in these young ladies.”

Kick-off at 4pm.