Wits beat Fort Hare 23-14 while UWC trounced UKZN 33-9 in the first round of the inaugural Varsity Shield on Monday.
In Alice, Wits produced a strong showing in the second half to overcome Fort Hare. Scrumhalf Ntando Kebe kept the hosts in contention by converting three penalties early on. However, it was the home team’s own ill-discipline that cost them as they received three yellow cards for foul play. This allowed Wits to enjoy a one-man advantage for 30 minutes of the match, and they capitalised by scoring three tries to seal the win.
The first stanza was a close contest as Fort Hare led 9-8 at the break. Kebe and fullback Michael Sephton-Poultney traded penalties before the hosts lost flanker Nkosikhona Nofuma to the sin bin for infringing at the breakdown. Seconds later, Wits No 8 Devin Montgomery powered over through a driving maul. Their lead was short lived as Kebe slotted his third penalty just before half time.
Then Wits gained the ascendancy. Centre Lukhanyiso Fana was yellow carded in the 44th minute for a high tackle, and Wits became rampant on attack with an extra man on the field. After several attempts, flyhalf Sean Manton dotted down to regain the lead for the visitors.
Seconds before Fana returned to the field, Fort Hare received their third yellow card, this time lock Itumeleng Mokae for a dangerous tackle. Wits then went ahead 23-9 thanks to wing Eman Mphande’s intercept try and Sephton-Poultney’s second penalty.
Fort Hare managed to score late try as replacement wing Lukhanyiso Magele dived in at the corner, but this proved to be all consolation as Wits managed to restrict the hosts and hold on for the win.
Meanwhile, UWC scored three tries in their 33-9 win over the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Bellville.
Flanker Uzair Cassiem, wing Anthony Volminck and replacement back Warrick Rhode crossed the chalk for the hosts while flyhalf Charl van Vollenhoven kicked four penalties and three conversions. UKZN fullback Kirsten Jones slotted three penalties for the visitors.
By Gareth Duncan