Give Rhodes a chance

Grocott's Mail - - SPORT -

As the Var­sity Cup brand cel­e­brated its 10th year since in­cep­tion, there was a buzz sur­round­ing Rhodes Rugby as they pre­pared for their first ap­pear­ance in the sev­enth edi­tion of the Var­sity Shield.

Un­for­tu­nately, FNB Rhodes en­dured a dis­mal sea­son, not win­ning a sin­gle game other than a de­fault vic­tory over CPUT due to their be­ing found to have bro­ken the player eli­gi­bil­ity rules.

Rhodes fin­ished bot­tom of the table and their lack of suc­cess was met with­out much for­give­ness from the stu­dents and fans who failed to see their team win at Great Field.

But be­fore we dis­miss the team and la­bel them a fail­ure, I think it is im­por­tant that we ac­knowl­edge the task Rhodes was faced with and how they got here.

Rhodes qual­i­fied last year when they lost to Wal­ter Sisulu Uni­ver­sity in the Uni­ver­sity Sport South Africa C sec­tion fi­nals in ex­tra time.

This was the same WSU team who had a dom­i­nant start to the com­pe­ti­tion and are still ti­tle con­tenders, de­spite be­ing pe­nalised and hav­ing points de­ducted.

Rhodes then faced a cam­paign where they were the small­est Uni­ver­sity in the com­pe­ti­tion, a mere 8 000 stu­dents com­pared to the likes of TUT who boast more than 60 000 stu­dents, mak­ing the se­lec­tion pool sub­stan­tially larger.

De­spite this, they came un­done in the last four min­utes against TUT in their first game. While they were even­tu­ally given the win against CPUT, when the match was played, Rhodes lost it lit­er­ally on the fi­nal play of the game.

They might have suf­fered some heavy de­feats against UWC and WSU, but as some­one who watched all the home games, I think it would be un­fair to say that Rhodes are com­pletely out of their depth.

The big­gest dif­fer­ence be­tween Rhodes and oth­ers is the re­cruit­ment process - or rather the lack of it.

Rhodes, not be­ing a sport­sori­en­tated uni­ver­sity, was never go­ing to go out and sud­den- ly hand out bur­saries to any promis­ing high school young­ster to beef up their team.

This is quite dif­fer­ent to the likes of UFH who, when play­ing Rhodes, had no fewer than 13 ‘first years’ - the youngest of them be­ing 21 and in­clud­ing the likes of Somila Jho, the cen­tre with 13 caps for the se­nior EP Kings Cur­rie Cup team.

What we wit­nessed this year was al­most where var­sity met rugby, in that Rhodes had a team of stu­dents play­ing rugby rather than some other teams who had rugby play­ers en­rolled as stu­dents.

De­spite this, Rhodes still showed glimpses of what they can do and I have no doubt they will im­prove next year.

So un­til then, give them a chance as they con­tinue mak­ing sports his­tory at Rhodes.

Photo: Stephen Pen­ney

The Rhodes Uni­ver­sity first rugby side lines up be­fore the start of a Var­sity Shield match.

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