The University of Johannesburg rugby team shrugged off an early yellow card to win the Varsity Sevens title with a decisive 20-0 win over Stellenbosch in Johannesburg on Saturday.
The tournament took place at the Pirates club, where the Orange Army made amends after losing to UP-Tuks in last year’s final.
UJ captain Johan Esterhuizen said he was overcome with joy after the final whistle blew.
“To be honest, it still feels a bit unreal and I am lost for words at the final result,” he said following the tournament decider.
“Last year we came second to Tuks so we really wanted to rectify that outcome.
“I am really proud of the guys for the way they stuck to the task during the final and the whole tournament.
“We fought hard to bring it home, so I must say a big thank you to the whole squad.”
Esterhuizen also paid tribute to their opponents, who never gave up trying despite not being able to get on the scoreboard.
“I want to thank the Maties team for their efforts – it was a very tough game in the final.”
Although they suffered a big disadvantage with the yellow card early in the game, the UJ defense proved relentless as they kept their opponents at bay.
Despite playing with six players, it was UJ who were first on the board when Musawenkosi Tshabalala broke through from close to his own 22-meter line and beat several defenders to put them 5-0 ahead.
That was followed by a decisive moment when UJ crossed for a second try during a power play, which resulted in them taking a 15-0 lead into halftime.
Desperate to get back into the game, the Maties tried everything they could but were unable to crack the UJ defence.
With time running out and the score in UJ’s favour, Odwa Nkunjana settled the matter when he side-stepped three Maties players in one of the tries of the tournament to take the score to 20-0.
Fittingly, Nkunjana was named FNB Player of the Tournament, which he described as a “great feeling”.
“I am very thankful at receiving this award and we are very excited to have won the tournament,” he said.
On a personal level, he said he had aspirations of playing at the highest level.
“I want to make playing top-quality sevens rugby my goal and my aim will just be to keep working hard all the time,” said Nkunjana.