By Quintin van Jaarsveld
Southern KwaZulu-Natal fired a stern warning to the rest of the rugby sub-unions when they came from behind and cantered to a 35-17 bonus-point win over Durban in Kokstad on Saturday.
After eking out a 25-24 win over Zululand in the opening round of this year’s Ebbo Bastard tournament at Douglas Mitchell Sports Grounds in Uvongo last month, Southern KwaZulu-Natal were left with more questions than answers as far as the defence of their title was concerned.
They answered all those questions emphatically in Saturday’s repeat of the 2013 final, as they overturned a 12-point deficit to run out clear winners over what Southern KwaZulu-Natal head coach Matthew Burger considered “the team to beat” in this year’s tournament.
Southern KwaZulu-Natal could hardly have gotten off to a worse start as they gifted Durban a 12-point head start.
This only served as a test of character, one Southern KwaZulu-Natal, bolstered by the return of the 2013 Ebbo Bastard Player of the Tournament Jason Kaschula, passed with distinction.
Staying composed, the hosts tightened up their defence, found their rhythm on attack and took control of the game. They let in just five more points, while putting 35 past a shell-shocked Durban side.
Forwards Man of the Match Jacques Witstock, Jarrod Skidmore, Manie Bezuidenhout and Fidelity South Coast Warriors scrumhalf Chris Mitchell all dotted down with Ernst Bezuidenhout, the hero against Zululand, kicking three penalties and three conversions.
Outside centre Warren Humphries was named backline Man of the Match.
The five log points are as good as gold for Southern KwaZulu-Natal as the competition is sans play-offs and decided purely on log points.
Southern KwaZulu-Natal assistant coach Christo Henderson said the performance was a much better indication of what the team is capable of than their first-round showing.
“We fixed our issues and weak points from the first round and strengthened the team with a few changes, which paid off,” Henderson told eHowz!t.
“We were happy to have Jason [Kaschula] back in the starting line-up and he made a huge impact with his presence on the field.
“We knew that it was a very important game, and the five points are just what we wanted from the players.
“The boys played well and showed character. We were under heavy pressure in the first 20 minutes but the boys kept their cool and stuck to the game plan.
“They worked hard, closed the gap slowly but surely and once we took the lead there was no looking back.
“Our second half was just outstanding and a few players definitely put their hands up for the Wildebeest XV team.”
With nine out of a possible 10 log points in the bag, the defending champions will look to edge one step closer to retaining their title in their third-round north-south derby, which will be a curtain raiser for the Sharks at Kings Park on 6 September.
The Southern KwaZulu-Natal Under-21s were not in action at the weekend as Durban didn’t field an Under-21 side.