The University of Johannesburg gave themselves hope for the future when they registered a morale-boosting win over northern rivals UP-Tuks in a thrilling Varsity Cup rugby encounter in Johannesburg on Monday.
The home team shrugged off successive losses to NWU-Pukke and Free State for their first win of the season and it will provide motivation for them to continue to show progress.
Flyhalf Divan Nel was named the Player That Rocks after kicking six penalties to give his team a narrow 18-17 win.
Tuks had a chance to win the match after scoring a try in the dying seconds of the game, only for the conversion to go wide.
Coach Werner Janse van Rensburg was delighted with the team’s effort as it was UJ’s first victory over Tuks in the Varsity Cup since 2010.
“What impressed me is the character the players showed,” he said.
“There was a lot of pressure on them after losing the first two games and they had received much criticism. Overcoming this, along with the home crowd support, was very satisfying to see.”
Although Tuks have dominated matches between the two sides in recent years, Janse van Rensburg said they had focused on improving a number of aspects in their play from the first two games.
“We knew if we could do this and gain some momentum, we would be in with a chance.
“Our defence, the urgency shown by the players to contribute throughout the game and the protection of the ball, especially when we were a man down, were important factors in achieving the win.”
Following their earlier setbacks, Janse van Rensburg said they had focused on a number of aspects.
“We needed better composure to cut down the error rate and, overall, for the players to serve the team and not themselves.”
He added it was difficult to single out any players on the night because “I think everyone made a huge step up in their attitude”.
The UJ mentor said he would be looking for better discipline from his players in their remaining matches.
“Our penalty count is way too high and it will be difficult to get results if we continue to pick up yellow cards.
“I think our scrum also needs to show improvement, but I am confident the guys will sort it out.”
Although UJ have gained some momentum, Janse van Rensburg said it would mean nothing if they failed to maintain the same tough attitude.
“We have to be very careful of complacency when we face CUT in Bloemfontein on Monday,” he said.
“At home they are a different beast and we will have to realise the importance of continuing to improve.
“We have now seen that on any given Monday any team can win.”