Tuk-Tok: Baby Blues counting down hours to Varsity Cup semi

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Nombuyekezo Mdliki, player of the match against the UWC Caracals, will be a key figure for Fort Hare in their Varsity Cup semi-final on Friday.

 

The Baby Blues’ 42-23 victory over the UWC Caracals in their final FNB Varsity Cup pool game has sent an unequivocal message that they are serious title contenders this year.

Having seen off UJ in their opening match, the Fort Hare women rallied after a slow start in Cape Town to stamp their authority on the game and set up a mouth-watering semi-final against Tuks on home soil on Friday.

Fort Hare ended top of the pool with nine points, including one bonus point, to win Group B and will play the second-placed team in Group A. The other semi will be contested between Maties and UWC in Stellenbosch.

Fort Hare coach Ntyatyambo Mkhafu said the UWC encounter was tough going in the first 20 minutes, a period in which the Capetonians ran in three tries to the one of the visitors.

The side from Alice in the Eastern Cape later found their feet to put the home side to the sword.

“In the second half it was fun for us. We tried all our moves and tried to exploit the gaps. We ended up scoring six or seven tries,” he said.

Clawing their way back is nothing new for his side this season. It happened in some of their warm-up matches and also against UJ in the opening round of the tournament.

In the latter fixture, they fought back strongly in front of their home crowd to pip last year’s finalists 19-17.

UFH’s young team seem to relish the challenge of testing their mettle and proving that they do not give up easily – much to the despair of Mkhafu who quipped that it had led 1to many nervous moments for the coaching team.

Prop Nombuyekezo Mdliki had a storming game against UWC, while the backline performed superbly once they had found their rhythm. The difference, the coach said, was their halfbacks coming more into play.

He thanked Fort Hare vice-chancellor Sakhela Buhlungu and sports manager Loyiso Lange for making the trip to the Mother City to support the ladies.

There was little time for some members of the squad to celebrate as they had to be in East London the following day to represent the Border senior side against the Blue Bulls.

Mkhafu, strength and conditioning coach Likhona Nkqoli and players Mbonja Phola, Zanele Touta, Sivuyiseko Makhomazi (captain), Lilitha Vakalisa and Mdliki were the ones to catch an early-morning flight out.

The coach admitted that he did not know much about Tuks, who came through Group A with a resounding 51-5 victory against UKZN.

“We are taking the competition game by game. I cannot say whether Tuks are weak or strong or in between.

“We are just going to prepare as if it will be a tough game.”

If all goes well in the semi, he will start thinking about the prospect of facing Maties in a final.

The Western Cape students won the inaugural women’s Varsity Cup last year following a win over UFH in the semi-final and a walloping of UJ (53-0) in the final.

As much as his focus is on Friday’s match, MKhafu has been keeping a quiet eye on Maties’ form.

He believed they would not have it all their own way against UWC, particularly after only narrowly (20-14) beat them in a pre-tournament warm-up match.