The FNB NMMU Madibaz got back to winning ways with a hard-fought 18-12 victory over Wits in pouring rain in Johannesburg on Monday.
The Eastern Cape side outscored the hosts by three tries to one in what was a scrappy game to bounce back from consecutive defeats at home to FNB UCT and NWU-Pukke.
Wits played with their usual passion and commitment, but fell just short of securing their first victory of the competition as they remain rooted to the bottom of the standings.
The home side made a spirited start to the match as they took the game to the Madibaz in the wet conditions, but the rain made handling incredibly difficult which made it something of a stop-start affair.
The match was always going to be dominated by the forwards in the driving rain, and opportunities were few and far between as both teams battled to find continuity in their game.
NMMU centre Michael Bernardt was shown a yellow card for repeated breakdown infringements from his side, which gave Wits the opportunity to hit the front early on.
Penalties either side of the first strategy break from Wits scrumhalf Matthew Torrance gave them a 4-0 lead, and they kept the pressure on the visitors.
However, the Madibaz struck back when prolific flank Chris Cloete crashed over for a try from a driving maul to give them a narrow 5-4 lead.
Wits were struck a blow soon afterwards when lock Rinus Bothma was shown a yellow card for using his boot on the head of another player, and NMMU launched a sustained period of pressure in the Wits 22 as they looked to take advantage but the home team’s defence did well to hold out until half-time
Things were just as scrappy in the second half, but the Madibaz managed to stretch their lead when Bernardt crossed the whitewash, with flyhalf Jarryd Buys’ conversion putting them 13-8 ahead.
Wits hit back with a try of their own from inside centre Brent Crossley who ran a good line to stroll over and cut NMMU’s lead to 13-12 with ten minutes to play.
It was anyone’s game in the final stages as both teams tore into one another, and the visitors had the final say as scrumhalf Enrico Acker darted over for a late try to secure the victory as Wits fell short once more.
For FNB Wits:
For FNB NMMU:
Tries: Cloete, Bernardt, Acker
Yellow cards: Michael Bernardt (NMMU, 20 – Repeated infringements) Rinus Bothma (Wits, 32 – Foul play)
FNB Wits: 15 Ruhan Nel, 14 Mandla Dube, 13 Divan Ferguson, 12 Brent Crossley, 11 Nkuli Gamede, 10 Ashlon Davids, 9 Mathew Torrance, 8 Jason Fraser, 7 Senna Esterhuizen, 6 Thato Mavundla, 5 Rinus Botma, 4 Devin Montgomery (captain), 3 Kelley Ferdinand, 2 Ashley Kohler, 1 Hannes Ludick.
Replacements: 16 James Marx, 17 Kyle Wood, 18 Conor Brockschmidt, 19 Peter van Biljon, 20 Rendani Ramovha, 21 Ish Nkolo, 22 Joshua Jarvis, 23 Gideon Muller.
FNB NMMU Madibaz: 15 Kayle van Zyl, 14 Ayabula Dlepu, 13 Michael Bernardt, 12 Devon Lailvaux, 11 Yamkela Ngam, 10 Jarryd Buys, 9 Daniel Acker, 8 Timothy Agaba, 7 Marcel Groenewald, 6 Christopher Cloete, 5 Louis Fourie, 4 Stefan Willemse, 3 Simon Kerrod, 2 Martin Ferreira, 1 Roy Godfrey (captain).
Replacements: 16 Jody Reyneke, 17 Abongile Mnyaka, 18 Rob Louw, 19 Andre Barnard, 20 Gavin Hauptfleisch, 21 Andile Jho, 22 Sinakho Mafu, 23 Christie Lawrence.
Referees: Marius van der Westhuizen, Lesego Legoete
TMO: Johan Greeff