Big upsets as rugby season kicks off 

Wanderers flyhalf Jacques Theron in action against Unam. Photo: Helge Schütz

The 2024 Rugby Premier League season started off with some big upsets on Saturday as the defending champions Trustco United and last year’s runners-up FNB Wanderers both suffered defeats. 

United lost 28-26 to FNB Grootfontein at Grootfontein, while Wanderers lost 30-17 to FNB Unam at the Unam Stadium. In other matches, FNB Kudus staged a late comeback to beat FNB Reho Falcon 40-32 at Walvis Bay, while premier league newcomers FNB Dolphins had a rude introduction after losing 50-10 to FNB Rehoboth Rugby Club at Rehoboth. 

At Grootfontein, the home side were full value for their victory, after a spirited performance to send the defending champions packing. Grootfontein hooker and captain Wicus Jacobs had a great match, scoring two tries and making another with a barnstorming run. 

He opened the scoring after going over for a try from a maul, and although United struck back with a try by their captain JD Nel, another Jacobs try after forward pressure put Grootfontein 10-5 ahead midway through the first half. 

A penalty by fullback Alfred Vercuil put them 13-5 ahead, and when Johan Luttig touched down for a converted try after Jacobs had cut through the defence, Grootfontein were well ahead at 20-5. 

United reduced the deficit just before halftime when centre Jandre Esterhuyzen put on the pace to follow up a penalty attempt by Lorenzo Louis that bounced back off the post, but Esterhuyzen caught Grootfontein’s defence napping as he snatched the loose ball to dive over, and with Louis adding the conversion, Grootfontein took a 20-12 lead at the halftime break.

Grootfontein stretched their lead to 23-12 after another Vercuil penalty, but United struck back when scrumhalf Jahno du Plessis nipped over from a ruck, and with Ricardo Swartz adding the conversion they were right back in the game at 23-19 down. 

Grootfontein left wing Lasarus Joseph put on the pace to go over for another converted try and although United replied with a late converted try by hooker Callie Swanepoel, it wasn’t enough as Grootfontein held on for a two-point victory. 

At the Unam Stadium the home side gave a rousing performance to beat Wanderers 30-17. 

Wanderers took the lead after flyhalf Jacques Theron cut through the backline to dive over, but Unam showed great resolve to come back. 

Centre Kieron Diergaardt first pulled off a try-saving tackle on Nandi Karuuombe, before centre Alcino Isaacs cut through the backline to dive over and with Raschano van Rooi adding the conversion they went 7-5 ahead. 

With the two forward packs battling it out up front, chances were few and far between, but just before halftime Unam went 14-5 ahead when winger Shareave Titus went over after a counterattack by fullback Aljerreau Zaahl.

Unam maintained the pressure after the break with two Van Rooi penalties putting them 20-5 ahead, and further counter-attacking tries by Titus and right wing Quirione Majiedt put them in charge with a 30-5 lead. Wanderers struck back with late tries by wing Tareekuye Tjipute and flanker Obert Nortje but it was not enough as Unam sealed an impressive 30-17 win. 

In Walvis Bay, Reho Falcon were on course for an upset win when they led 32-26 in the final stages, but Kudus struck back with two late tries to win the match 40-32. 

Kudus scored five tries through centre Justin Newman (two), left wing Lucio Izaaks, flanker Jarreth Koning, and replacement forward Jarren Koning, while flyhalf Aurelio Plato added three conversions and replacement back Scott Winborn two. 

For Reho Falcon, rightwing Brandon Besser scored two tries and flanker Keynnen Basson and left wing Shaun Mouton one each, while centre Franklin Busch added two conversions and fullback Enrique Husselmann one conversion and two penalties. 

Newly-promoted Dolphin Rugby Club, meanwhile, found the going tough in the premier league as they crashed to a 50-10 defeat against Rehoboth at Rehoboth. 

Rehoboth scored eight tries through right wing Dolano Vries (two), centre Hillian Beukes, flyhalf Ascher Coetzee, prop Carl William Freygang, hooker Jeandre Cloete, replacement back Shaquille January, and fullback William Klazen, who added four conversions for a personal tally of 13 points.

Scrumhalf Miguel Busch added one conversion. 

For Dolphins, flyhalf Rewaldo Coetzee scored a try and a penalty, while rightwing Ronaldo Britzze added a conversion. 

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