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Table-topping Shimlas going 'mental'

SPOTLIGHT: Shimlas coach André Tredoux has hailed the resilience of his team in the wake of their statement win against defending champions NWU Eagles.

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After leading 21-0 in the first half, the Shimlas lost momentum – and needed a late try by replacement flank Henri van Heerden to secure a monumental 35-26 victory.

The result marked the Shimlas’ first win against the Eagles since 2017, and propelled them to the top of the Varsity Cup standings.

After three rounds, the boys from Bloem have claimed 12 out of a possible 15 points.

Speaking to @rugby365com, Tredoux admitted that he has mixed feelings about the performance.

The Shimlas have blown hot and cold over the past three fixtures, and all three contests have been tight.

But as seen in the 34-31 win against the University of Johannesburg and the more recent victory against the Eagles, the Shimlas are finding a way to close out big matches.

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“To be honest, it was a bit tough to watch towards the end,” Tredoux said with a chuckle.

“We started well.

“This has always been something of a derby game, and in past fixtures, the Eagles have looked to lift the tempo in the first 20 minutes or so.

“Knowing that, we decided to take the fight to them from the outset [and proceeded to score 21 unanswered points]. Our attack coach Melusi Mthethwa deserves a lot of credit.

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“The Eagles came back really hard, though.

“We overplayed a bit in the second half. I felt we could have kicked more.

“That is something we will have to look at, but at the end of the day I’m happy with the way the guys finished it.

“It took everything we had to hang in there, and I’m just immensely pleased that we came through with an important win.”

Varsity Cu[ standings after three rounds

The Shimlas have always prided themselves on their physicality and attack.

This season, they have taken significant strides to address their mental shortcomings.

“‘Staying in the fight’ is something we’ve been speaking about since the preseason,” said Tredoux.

“We did a lot of work with Chris Brown, who was previously involved in the American sevens system, on the mental side of things before the start of the campaign.

“We knew how important it was going to compete in the Varsity Cup, where the margins are so thin.

“Part of the mental approach is sticking to the strategy, and I’m thrilled that we’ve scored 16 tries in three matches.

“That highlights our attacking intent.”

Unsurprisingly, the Shimlas have taken heart from their first win against the Eagles in seven years.

“It’s huge, as the Eagles have been our bogey team for some time,” said Tredoux.

“The boys celebrated the win on Monday night, and rightly so, but we will get back down to business in the coming days, as it’s a long campaign and there’s a lot more to do.”

Nevertheless, the result could be a turning point in their campaign. Having shaken off the rust, they will only grow stronger in the coming weeks.

“Yes, that win against the Eagles will give the team a bit more confidence, after what we saw against the Ikeys and UJ,” said Tredoux.

“We only played one warm-up game. We weren’t at our best in the opening match against the Ikeys – where our discipline and our failure to follow a few processes let us down. Then again, we knew that we’d be a bit undercooked in the early stages of this tournament.

“Now we’re starting to build momentum. We’re sitting pretty at the top of the log, but we realise how hard we’ll have to work to stay there.”

The Shimlas will host the University of the Western Cape in the next round. UWC have lost their first three matches and are ranked last in the standings, but Tredoux is taking nothing for granted.

“UWC haven’t had a great start to the tournament, but we can’t underestimate them. Paul Treu is an astute coach and will have a few tricks up his sleeve.

“We’ve got to go out there with the right attitude and be physical from the outset.”

@rugby365com

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