Shimlas Stun Defending Champs
Three teams sounded serious warnings in the first round of the 2012 FNB Varsity Cup presented by Steinhoff International on Monday night, but it was Shimlas who produced arguably the best performance of the lot.
The Men from Bloemfontein, winless in Cape Town until today, beat the defending champion FNB Ikey Tigers by 38-10 - claiming a four-try bonus point in the process.
FNB Shimlas led 18-5 at half time, as they scored two tries in each half, but - ultimately - it was their deadly defence that won the day; the Men in Blue & White having enough try-scoring chances and then being left to chase the game.
Shimlas right-wing Nico Scheepers, although not a try-scorer, kicked seven from seven on a relatively windless day in the Cape and it was the Kovsies who were smiling the broadest after the opening match of the 2012 tournament.
Whilst the Ikeys lost at home, their Western Cape rivals, FNB Maties, began their 2012 campaign with a 52-2 thrashing of FNB TUT.
The Maties, no doubt still reeling from a trophy-less 2011, scored seven tries to nil, with forwards Os Hamman (prop) and Grant Hattingh (lock) scoring a brace and a hat-trick of tries, respectively.
Centre Wessel Coetzee walked off with the official Man of the Match honours, but coach Chean Roux would have been happy with his pack's powerful showing on the night.
Another powerful display worth noting was FNB Tuks' clinical 23-8 win over FNB UJ in Pretoria.
Tuks led 18-0 at half time, thanks to first-half tries by Hayden Groepes and Franco Mostert, with captain Jono Ross scoring their third try in the second half.
A late try from UJ back JR Esterhuizen accounted for their only points on the night - last year's losing semifinalists having been well and truly outplayed by a side that also managed to beat them twice in last year's Varsity Cup.
Lastly, and by no means the least, the FNB NWU-Pukke opened their account in Round One of the 2012 Varsity Cup, thanks to a hard-fought 26-16 win over the FNB Madibaz in Port Elizabeth.
The visitors led by 26-8 at half time, but lost the second half 8-0 against their determined opponents.
Pukke coach Hannes Esterhuizen would have been happy with his team's four-try win, especially after the poor start they made in last season's tournament, but their scoreless second half would have been a slight concern for him.
Meanwhile, the first-ever Varsity Young Guns matches took place on Monday, with two away victories signalling the start of this all-new students-only, Under-20 tournament.
In Cape Town, the Baby Shimlas set the scene for their senior side with a 27-20 win over UCT's Under-20s, whilst in Port Elizabeth the NWU-Pukke Under-20s were simply too strong for the Baby Madibaz - thrashing them by 87-5.
There were also two Shield matches - in Johannesburg and in Alice, with both home sides emerging victorious.
Wits ran in six tries on their way to a convincing 43-20 victory over UWC, whilst Fort Hare opened their account this season with a determined 36-21 win over UKZN.
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