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Varsity Shield rugby comes to Grahamstown for the first time in its history, as Rhodes Rugby looks to show South Africa that they can compete against some of the best universities in the country.
Grahamstown plays host to its first Varsity Shield match today, Monday 13 February at 6.30pm, and the team is hoping to fill Rhodes University Great Field with Grahamstown locals.
Rhodes Rugby is prepared for the tough season ahead. FNB Rhodes University Head Coach Qondakele Sompondo believes the coaching team is comfortable that about 60 percent of the squad are capable of playing 80 minutes.
Sompondo selected only the players he felt were capable of playing a full 80 for the opening fixture against Tshwane University of Technology in Pretoria last night.
The remainder of the squad remained in Grahamstown in order to train for the first home match of the season.
“My dream since starting here at Rhodes in 2012 has been to fill the stands of the Great field with Grahamstonians,” Sompondo said. This is a goal that the team hopes to achieve during their first home game.
Sompondo believes Varsity rugby has the power to unify and equalise small towns, as he has seen the effect that it has had on Stellenbosch and Potchefstroom.
“Varsity Cup and Varsity Shield are known for their social alignment,” Sompondo said. “I think it will greatly benefit the entire Grahamstown community economically; but more than that, because of the social nature of the competition, the greater community will benefit,” he said.
Sompondo believes Rhodes Rugby is a team of Grahamstown, for Grahamstown, and as such he hopes that people will flock to Great Field on Monday in order to fill the grandstands.
“It would mean a lot to me [and the players], as it has always been a goal of mine to have the field filled with the people of Grahamstown,” Sompondo said.
Rhodes Rugby recently pledged that if they win the Varsity Shield, the prize money will be donated to students in need of financial support, thus further supporting the needs of the community.