The University of Cape Town travelled up the M3 to Constantia as losing finalists in Varsity Cup 2023, but returned down that very freeway gallant victors of a tough and entertaining encounter against False Bay on Saturday.
The final score was 27-21 after the Bay led 15-13 at the break.
Contesting ownership of the Mark Jordaan Trophy for the next year, Ikeys had already notched three out of four victories on the day, the only blemish on a clean record being the 12-10 loss to False Bay Under-20A in a pulsating encounter.
Club rugby is about all the teams participating at various levels, but it remains the result of the encounter between the two First Teams which carries the most gravity, after all the premier team of each club determines the level of league at which the club competes.
The main match was expected to deliver quality rugby in a tense challenge, and a healthy crowd should have framed the pitch, but the weather interfered. A typically wet autumn day in the Cape seemed to banish spectators to house arrest with only the diehards showing partisanship. Their absence was their loss as the match lived up to pre-match expectations.
Playing with the north-westerly wind in the first half, Ikeys opened the scoring through a penalty conversion by right wing Ntokozo Makhaza, whose accurate goal kicking brought his team 13 points on the day. The wind and Makhaza’s boot was a stark reminder to home players and spectators that transgressions in their own half were almost certain to result in a three-point score.
The UCT pack seemed to have the edge over that of False Bay in the first half, exerting left-shoulder pressure to disrupt this phase of play for the hosts, but oddly, that was not a scrum standard, as the hosts rectified their bind to adapt to the lower scrumming height of the Ikeys.
False Bay emphatically struck back with a blitz-passed try under the poles by wing Mustaqim Jappie. The move was started on the 40-metre mark with flyhalf Ewan Adams switching to the right and Jappie receiving the ball on the quarter-line, outstripping defences for the touchdown under the poles.
Adams made it seven and minutes later increased his team’s lead to seven with a penalty. By this time the Bay were showing signs of dominance but forfeited some of the lead with another penalty by Makhaza. A healthier looking 15-6 point half time lead looked probable when lock Ryan Olivier crashed over from the tail of a rolling mall.
Students don’t give up and are at their most dangerous in the closing minutes of both halves. This contest proved to be a case study, as their try off a forwards maul by flank Siphumezo Dyonase, which Makhaza converted brought UCT to within two points at halftime.
The half drew to an end and for the home support, the prospect of the wind at their backs and a talented bench gave them comfort.
Adams extended his team’s lead to eight points with two scintillating drop goals from around the half way line. By this time, Bay strongman, Tahriq Allen, was in at tighthead prop and the previously strong UCT scrum started to look fragile. What had also happened by this stage was the systematic introduction of the UCT bench, clearly a step up in energy and intensity. The hosts, themselves having introduced their similarly talented bench, were exerting pressure on their guests.
On two occasions, possibly even a third in terms of scoring potential, False Bay were called back for a scrum for their own put in, without any advantage accruing and with them having stripped their opponents’ defences on the way to the line for a definite score. Interesting calls by the referee were the order of the day, but by no means limited to just one team’s actions, and like the players, he too will improve as the season progresses. Nevertheless, these bemusing calling back for a scrum, cost the Bay dearly, robbing them of daylight on the scoreboard.
“What ifs” and “shoulda/woulda/coulda” don’t feature in the comments section of any match report, and an eight-point lead for the hosts was reduced to a single point through a try by centre Kyle Lamb, goaled by Makhaza.
This served to unsettle the hosts as they seemed to lose some shape in the final 10 minutes, cohesion and mistakes hampering their efforts, and the score that all home supporters dreaded had an air of inevitability about it when fullback Justin Cross scored and Makhaza made no mistake.
While by no means reducing the efforts of the Ikeys in this result, few would deny that it was a match lost by False Bay rather than won by the visitors. They got a bonus point for their efforts and would be encouraged by their 70-minute performance, and disappointed by the final 10.
False Bay have a bye this weekend and then travel to Stellenbosch next week to face Maties.
• Jon Harris is a member of False Bay Rugby Club.