Quintin van Jaarsveld
The Riversmead South Coast Warriors made it hard for themselves but managed to escape Empangeni with a 22-17 win over Zululand Rhinos on Saturday.
With every match being must-win if the Warriors are to stay within reach of unbeaten First Division South Section log leaders Hillcrest, the Uvongo-based side’s title hopes were almost dashed.
The Warriors would’ve kicked themselves had they lost, as they were their own worst enemy, given several first-choice players didn’t make the trip.
As a result, an understrength Warriors outfit nearly let the game – and season – slip despite getting off to a strong start.
Tries by Xander Lourens and Men of the Match Lunga Madlala (forwards) and Rameez Ali (backline), two of which were converted by Brandt Fields, gave the visitors a 19-7 lead at the break.
However, the Warriors once again fell off the pace in the second half – an affliction that’s dogged them all season. They managed just three points in the second half, and just managed to hang on.
“It was a very tough game and I’m really relieved that we came away with the win,” captain Chris Mitchell told eHowzit.
A passionate Mitchell, though, didn’t hide his disappointment and expressed some hard truths in an attempt to rally his troops for the business end of the season.
“As a captain, I’m proud of the guys that we held on, but as a player I’ll say that I’m very disappointed in the Warriors’ actions – players that never commit to travel games and for the way we played.
“I’m sorry to say that, but it’s how I feel and the players know that. We need numbers at practice and a fully committed side. That’s the honest truth.”
With Durban Mets no-showing the previous week, thus handing the Warriors five log points, Saturday’s win means the South Coast side can still believe.
However, failing to pick up a four-try bonus point could be catastrophic.
Meanwhile, the Warriors second team succumbed 48-41 in a thrilling try-fest.
They led 12-0 before the heat started to get to them in the second half and they started missing tackles at regular intervals.
Sam Nkwentsha and Vuyo Gushu each scored a double with Christian Venter, Thobani Chíliza and Spider Ndlazi also dotting down, with the latter adding three conversions.
Man of the Match honours went to Nhlanhla Lushaba (forwards) and Ndlazi (backline).
Head coach Gromingo Mzunga commented, “We’re proud of the team and their effort. We’ll be working hard this week before our next game; we have lots of work to do before Saturday.”
Consultant coach MG Roscher added, “These long trips are always a bit challenging as some key players couldn’t go due to work commitments. However, we’re proud of the boys; they played their hearts out.”
The Warriors will hit the road again for a crunch clash against Westville this Saturday, with their season once again on the line.