CUT Off To Perfect Start
Varsity Shield champions FNB CUT got their title defence off to a winning start when they downed a determined FNB Wits outfit 25-12 in their tournament opener in Bloemfontein on Monday.
The replay of last season's final was also the first match to feature the new scoring system with penalties and drop-goals worth two points each and conversions worth three points.
The home side enjoyed the majority of possession thanks to their dominant pack of forwards but a combination of poor handling and the efforts of a Wits outfit who showed a lot of heart kept the game in the balance right until the end.
Wits took an early 12-0 lead thanks to the accurate boot of flyhalf Kyle Peyper who slotted the first-ever two-point penalty and followed up with another to give his side an early 4-0 lead.
The visitors struck another early blow when captain and flyhalf Inus Kritzinger spilt a ball deep in his own territory and Wits inside centre Ryan Odendaal pounced, hacking the loose ball ahead and recollecting before going over for the first try of the season.
Peyper's conversion made it 12-0 to Wits but CUT hit back almost immediately through Kritzinger who was put in space by a great pass from fullback Jannie Myburgh and burst down the left and handed off Wits outside centre Heinke Hartdegen before crossing in the corner for a great try.
The home side were not done yet and they scored again just before half-time when scrumhalf Stephen Griesel forced his way over from close quarters after an extended period of pressure from his forward pack on the Wits tryline.
That gave CUT a 13-12 half-time lead and they managed to add to it when Wits flank Charles Baggott was shown a yellow card for entering the ruck from the side and Myburgh slotted the penalty to stretch his team's lead.
The home side were completely in control at that stage although to their credit Wits never gave up the fight and stayed in the game thanks to a determined effort on defence and a number of basic errors from CUT who were battling to finish off their opportunities.
The hosts eventually made their dominance count when replacement prop Danie van der Merwe got over for a deserved try which was converted by Myburgh and when the fullback added a late penalty there was no way back for the visitors.
Wits will be happy with the fighting spirit they showed under considerable pressure, but they will want to improve vastly on their showing in the set-pieces where CUT were extremely dominant thanks to their intimidating pack of forwards.
Although CUT will be satisfied with the victory they will not be happy with their finishing which could have been far more clinical, especially how much possession they had.
For FNB CUT:
Tries: Kritzinger, Griesel, Van der Merwe
Cons: Myburgh 2
For FNB Wits:
Pens: Peyper 2
CUT: 15 Jannie Myburgh, 14 Alec Mhlanga, 13 Gerrit Smith, 12 Maphelo Mpomdo, 11 Nico Steenkamp, 10 Inus Kritzinger (captain), 9 Stephen Griesel, 8 Ruan Lombard, 7 Francois Harvey, 6 Grant Shai, 5 Gavin Annandale, 4 Carl Wegner, 3 Petri Coetzee, 2 Baksteen van Heerden, 1 Rudi Britz.
Replacements: 16 Deon Gouws, 17 Rudie Fuls, 18 Frans Sisita, 19 Shaun McGeer, 20 Noël Marx, 21 Leon Pretorius, 22 Jacques Bussack, 23 Danie van der Merwe.
Wits: 15 Blake Dismore, 14 Nkuli Gamede, 13 Heinke Hartdegen, 12 Ryan Odendaal, 11 Riaan Arends, 10 Kyle Peyper, 9 Brent Crossley, 8 Jason Fraser, 7 Charles Baggot, 6 Sam Peters, 5 Katlego Ntsie (captain), 4 Rinus Bothma, 3 Oliver Rochat, 2 Tyrell Tintinger, 1 Katlego Kgama.
Replacements: 16 Piers Coopers, 17 Phaka Zuma, 18 Pieter van Biljon, 19 Devin Montgomery, 20 Josh Dubach, 21 Bronson Lange, 22 Zunaid Kock, 23 Juandre Kirkham.
Referee: François Groenewald
Assistant referees: Pieter Janse van Vuuren, Marlize Jordaan
TMO: Shaun Veldsman
With thanks to VarsityCup.co.za