Madibaz - Leon van der Merwe

Continuity is proving to be the rocket fuel that has propelled the Madibaz to their unbeaten run in the FNB Varsity Shield this season.

This is the view of captain Leon van der Merwe, who was voted the Player that Rocks after Mandela University stormed to their fifth consecutive victory by beating Tshwane University of Technology in Pretoria recently.

Despite riding a wave of success, the inspirational flanker will know that they are only as good as their last match when they draw battle lines against Varsity College at the Madibaz Stadium in Gqeberha on Friday.

He pinpointed several aspects that had built confidence within the squad as they prepared for what would arguably be their toughest challenge yet.

“I believe that the continuity we have achieved in recent years in the squad is paying dividends as we have a good blend of youth and experience,” the skipper said.

More senior players within the setup meant that it was easier for newcomers to slot in as they could, in effect, watch and learn, Van der Merwe said.

This has created a strong connection between the players, which has led to better on-field performances.

That chemistry extends to his role as the leader.

Madibaz - Leon van der Merwe

Madibaz captain Leon van der Merwe was voted the Player that Rocks in his team’s fifth straight win in the FNB Varsity Shield this season. Photo: Michael Sheehan

“The support I have received as captain this year has been incredible. Our leadership group, the management and players have all made it easy to captain the team while focusing on my individual game.”

The Madibaz pride themselves on their defensive systems with only Walter Sisulu succeeding in scoring more than one try against them.

“We are comfortable on defence and our focus is on transition play from defence to attack,” Van der Merwe explained.

“We back our defence to force a mistake from the opposition and that gives us a chance to counter from the turnover before they have had a chance to set their defence system.”

He was particularly satisfied with the 29-7 victory over TUT as there was no doubt that they had gone into that encounter with a target on their back.

“It was good to beat them away from home. We knew it was going to be tough because many teams have gone to Pretoria and failed to win.”

He identified the dominant display by the Madibaz forwards in front of a partisan crowd as the difference between the two sides.

“Our performance in the first half against TUT was excellent, especially from the forwards as we scored two maul tries and two tries from pick-and-go situations.

“To be honest, any one of our forwards could have won the Player that Rocks award – I was just the lucky one.”

Their next opponents, Varsity College, have impressed by winning four of their first five matches in their debut Varsity Shield season.

“They are the new kids on the block and are well-coached, with some key game-breakers,” the captain of the Gqeberha team said.

“For us it’s going to be important to have a good set piece and to use any opportunities because they are not going to give us many.”

The most important game was always the next one and the Madibaz would do everything they could to make sure they were ready for the task at hand, he said.

Kick-off is at 3pm.