Baby Blues Varsity Cup

There is simply no telling when the celebrations will stop in Alice and surrounds this weekend after the University of Fort Hare’s Baby Blues pulled off an astonishing upset against Maties to become the 2024 women’s FNB Varsity Cup champions.

Their nail-biting 37-31 victory against the defending champions in Pretoria this afternoon will be remembered for decades to come as UFH Rugby claimed its second major trophy in as many years.

This victory, which comes on the back of the Blues’ Varsity Shield triumph in 2022, confirms Fort Hare as one of the country’s premier rugby breeding grounds.

Playing in front of ever-present UFH vice-chancellor Sakhela Buhlungu, who led a UFH contingent to Tuks to support the ladies, the Baby Blues were rampant from the outset.

Maties, who themselves had swept all aside in this year’s competition, ran into rugby’s equivalent of a tornado as Fort Hare stamped their authority on the match from the get-go.

Sivuyiseko Makhomazi, playing in her last Varsity Cup match, broke Maties’ spirit in the first five minutes when she barged through the defence and offloaded to Purity Ngogodo who sailed over for their first try.

In the lead-up to the match, much had been made of the blistering pace of livewire scrumhalf Sindisiwe Mbonja and she was not to disappoint when she crossed over for the Baby Blues’ second five-pointer in the 26th minute.

There was more pain to follow for the Stellenbosch women nine minutes later when Etandwa Marawu executed another piece of individual brilliance to run in for the Baby Blues’ second point-of-origin try.

Baby Blues Varsity Cup

Maties pulled a try back in the dying minutes of the half and carried this momentum into the first quarter of the second, scoring again in the 44th minute to make the score 25-14 to the side from Alice.

But as they have done all season, UFH picked themselves up again and got the ball to Mbonja to dot down for her second try of the game in the 53rd minute.

Maties, however, were never going to go away and hit back almost immediately when Ankia Viljoen crossed the whitewash to reduce the deficit to 11 points.

This final was always going to be about who held their nerve on the day and when Zelmari Pretorius put another five-pointer on the board for Maties with 16 minutes to go, it was anyone’s game.

With only six minutes left on the clock, Fort Hare summoned every last bit of strength and resolve to put Zintke Mkhokheli away for another try.

But Maties have and always will be known for never saying never, and when Elme Kruger crossed the line for her hat-trick, time stood still for Baby Blues’ supporters yet again.

Finally, it was all over.

It may have been by the barest of margins, but it mattered not one jot. The Baby Blues are the champions of South African student rugby.