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WSU seek balance ahead of CPUT arm-wrestle

PREVIEW: WSU coach Thembani Mkhokheli has called on his attack-minded charges to produce a sharper defensive showing in the Varsity Shield ‘quarterfinal’ against CPUT on Friday.

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With two rounds to play, three teams have already qualified for the Varsity Shield play-offs – Tuks, the Madibaz and Varsity College.

Over the next two weeks, these sides will fight for the right to host a semifinal.

Meanwhile, the race for the fourth play-off spot continues. While as many as five teams are still in contention, WSU (fourth in the Varsity Shield standings) and CPUT (fifth) are the front-runners.

This race may well be decided on Friday, when CPUT host WSU in what is effectively a quarterfinal.

If WSU win in Cape Town, they will book their place in the play-offs.

If CPUT prevails, they will keep their semifinal hopes alive.

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Last week, CPUT coach Alastair Theys told this website that the Easter break had come at the right time, and that his charges were recovering ahead of the crunch fixture against WSU.

CPUT went down 23-38 to Varsity College in the previous round.

Mkhokheli echoed those sentiments when the WSU side regathered earlier this week.

“We really needed that break, after playing week in and week out,”the WSU coach told @Rugby365com.

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“There were a lot of tired and battered bodies after that 29-5 win against UFH.

“Now the guys are back and ready to go against CPUT. We know it’s not easy to win down there, but we’ve spoken about embracing the challenge, because we know what’s at stake in terms of the competition.”

Varsity Shield standings after 5 rounds

WSU’s record doesn’t make for particularly impressive reading. They’ve lost three of their five games, and are yet to win away from home.

Mkhokheli, however, is adamant that the side has turned a corner in the wake of the positive result against UFH.

“We went into that game on the back of a 29-18 loss to the Madibaz, and we knew how important it was for our campaign. It was do or die.

“The next game against CPUT is another decider, and we’re approaching that match with the same mindset. We’re not looking beyond that.”

Both teams are known for their attacking flair.

Theys recently described WSU as ‘unpredictable’ given that they have the intent and capacity to attack from deep within their half.

Mkhokheli feels that flair won’t be enough to win a game of this nature.

The situation may warrant a more measured approach.

“CPUT has a very quick backline, and we’ll have to contain those players. It all starts at the set piece, though, and we’ll have to be up to the challenge in that department.

“Our set piece has been very good, particularly our maul. Maybe our attack and our execution has let us down at times, and we’ve worked hard in the past few days to address that.

“Balance was a big talking point coming into this season,” he continued. “In past seasons, we’ve had a reputation as the side who will run it from everywhere, who loves to attack.

“This year, we’ve spoken about being as good on defence as we are on attack, because if you look at the teams that compete in the play-offs and for the title, they all have that balance.”

A victory will guarantee WSU at least four log points, as well as an unassailable lead over fifth-placed CPUT.

A CPUT win, however, will allow the Cape-based side to close the gap – and possibly overtake WSU – ahead of their last match against a battling UKZN outfit.

In that scenario, WSU would need a big win against third-placed Varsity College in the final round to advance to the semi-finals.

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