Commentary Box: Beware the wounded underdog

What a difference a year makes!

In January 2017, the NWU-Pukke or NWU as it is known now had the Varsity Cup in their possession.

This time in January 2018, they are trophy less as the NWU looks to build towards a second Varsity Cup title after a rather disappointing and underwhelming 2017 Varsity Cup campaign. Some things just did not click on the field and some tough losses eventually lead to an unexpected group stage exit. The champions were humbled and defeated as expectations and reality just could not co-exist.

Maybe 2018 should be deemed as a fresh start for the 2016 champions, who will unveil a new crop of Varsity Cup talent in the coming weeks. Gone are stalwarts such as Marno Redelinghuys, Loftus Morrison and former captain Jeandré Rudolph –as they are off to greener pastures after a majorly successful run in the maroon and white jerseys. Newcomers such as Edmund Rheeder and Morné Strydom could have stake their claim among a few other talented faces in the ranks.

I am going to make a prediction that this NWU Varsity Cup team will be one to watch and are my pick as underdogs or dark horses of the tournament. Critics will not give them much of  a chance but rugby is played on grass and not paper.

The favourites tag will most likely be glued to Tuks and Maties this year, and this could just be the best thing to happen to the NWU.

Jonathan Mokuena, now in his third year as head coach, has learned from previous mistakes and will use all his tact and experience wisely one feels. Alongside Jean Tiedt, former Springbok fly half, André Pretorius, who year by year is proving himself in the coaching world, and the returning Johann Laker as defence coach, this side should be in good hands.

Beware the wounded underdog, beware a team with something to prove.


Wouter Pienaar
Sport Journalist

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