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Wits eye Joburg derby as play-off hopes hang in the balance

SPOTLIGHT: Wits coach Hugo van As has called for a sharper performance against local rivals UJ following an inconsistent and ultimately disappointing showing against UCT.

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Wits have some cause to celebrate following the 33-33 draw with UCT on Monday. After trailing 28-10 at half-time, they took charge in the second stanza, and scored a converted try at the death to secure three log points from the fixture.

Some, though, may view a draw at home as a missed opportunity. Wits failed to bank a win, and at the same time, failed to deny their opponents valuable log points.

After five rounds, UCT have racked up 18 points and sit in fourth place on the Varsity Cup log, while Wits have accumulated 13 points – and remain outside the top-four.

Wits have to beat UJ next Monday to keep their play-off hopes alive. UJ should be equally desperate – as they are two losses away from automatic relegation.

Following the draw with the Ikeys, Van As admitted that the outcome was a mixed bag.

“We’re grateful for the draw, but as they say, a draw is like kissing your sister,” the Wits coach told @rugby365com.

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“We’re excited by parts of the performance, but disappointed that we didn’t get the win.

“We did well to put UCT under pressure, especially in that fourth quarter, but didn’t convert enough of our chances into points. So while it was a relief to get the draw, it was disappointing to miss out on the full haul of log points.”

Wits enjoyed the perfect start to the season, claiming big wins over UWC and CUT. Thereafter, they went down 12-23 to Maties, before sustaining a 22-51 loss to the NWU Eagles.

Van As said that soft moments had cost the team at key stages of recent contests.

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“It’s a young group, and as we’ve seen over the past few weeks, they have found themselves in situations where they’ve had to fight back from tough positions.

“I have to credit the fighting spirit that they showed against UCT, but we’ve got to find a way to eliminate the soft moments that lead to those situations.

“The two seven-point tries we conceded against UCT were very soft, and put us under a lot of pressure in terms of the scoreboard.”

UJ went down 12-49 to the Eagles on Tuesday, and are yet to win a game this season.

Nevertheless, Wits won’t be taking them lightly in the derby staged at UJ Stadium next Monday.

“There have been some great battles between UJ and Wits over the years. Previous form doesn’t seem to matter, as both teams tend to go all out to win this derby,” said Van As.

“We know what we’ll be up against, and it goes without saying that we’ll have to be a lot sharper.

“There has been growth week on week, and that’s been encouraging to see. We’re not looking too far ahead, but after the game against UJ, hopefully we’ll be in a good position and can start planning for the last league clash against Shimlas.

“Our dream is to make the semis. We’re in fifth position at the moment, so that dream is still within reach.

“It’s tough when you lose a lot of senior players, but we’re still determined to qualify for the semi-finals and ensure that Wits are one of the top four sides in the tournament.”

Wits eye Joburg derby as play-off hopes hang in the balance

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