14 April 2022 | Story Jóhann Thormählen
Jooste Nel was one of the Shimla stars in 2022. The centre was chosen as the Player That Rocks against the Madibaz this week. Photo: ASEM Engage, Ian Fairley

It was their aim to entertain, and now the University of the Free State (UFS) Shimlas want to continue in the same vein in front of their home fans in the Varsity Cup semi-final that will be played on Shimla Park on the Bloemfontein Campus on Monday 18 April 2022 at 19:00.

According to Thabang Mahlasi, the Shimla captain, his side is excited to have a home advantage against the University of Pretoria (UP) Tuks and would like to reward their supporters by scoring more tries.

The Shimlas also got their faithful involved this week by launching an ‘Every Fellow’ campaign on social media to encourage supporters to stand together and sing the Shimla song.

One of the Shimlas’ biggest fans, Prof Francis Petersen, Rector and Vice-Chancellor of the UFS, says he will cheer on the team, wishing for another Varsity Cup trophy if the UFS reaches the final. “The UFS is home to top sports stars and winning the Varsity Rugby Cup – following our triumph in the Varsity Netball competition – will be great. Good luck to the team and know that every fellow Kovsie is behind you.”  

Big turnaround
The UFS defeated the Nelson Mandela University 72-24 in Gqeberha in its last league match this week to end first on the log. It was the fourth time in 2022 that the Shimlas scored 50 points or more.

This means they will host UP Tuks, who finished fourth, at Shimla Park on Monday, while the University of Cape Town and Stellenbosch University will play in Cape Town in the other semi-final.

The UFS play against the defending champions in the semi-final in what will be a tight affair. In a previous encounter with UP Tuks this month, Shimlas won 26-15.

It was quite a turnaround for the Shimlas, who finished seventh last year. It will be the first time since 2019 that they play in a semi-final.

“What a big confidence booster to play in front of our own supporters,” says Mahlasi.

“Apart from that, we don’t have to travel, which means our bodies will be fresh come Monday.”

He thanked the fans for their continued support and says, “they will be in for quite a show on Monday”.

Sign of unity
The Shimlas got their supporters behind them with a campaign on their Instagram page (@shimlasrugby). Fans can win money if they sing the Shimla song, ‘Every Fellow’, in a video, or use the audio with their favourite Shimla memory.

Mahlasi says the idea is to get fans to sing the song to motivate the team while playing.

“And also, after the game it would be nice if we could all stand and sing together. As a sign of unity.”

“Our main focus is scoring tries,” says Mahlasi.

“For us, it’s not about the semi-final. For us, it’s just another opportunity to score as many tries as we can.”

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