The Border Ladies rugby team, coached by Komani’s Nwabisa Ngxatu, outplayed DHL Western Province 24-15 in a pulsating Women’s Premier Division final in Cape Town last Friday to be crowned the champions for the first time since 2016.
DHL Western Province came into the final as hot favourites and defending champions, having won every match in the league phase of the season and having won the last three titles. But it was not to be, as the Border Ladies showed more hunger and produced a stunning team effort and performance to take the spoils.
Border Ladies captain, Lusanda Dumke, was at the forefront with a massive performance that inspired her troops. Dumke showed her international experience and class, winning numerous turnovers. She was abrasive on attack with ball in hand, defended like someone possessed and was a menace at the breakdown.
The ladies from the Eastern Cape started with real intent, dominating territory and possession in the early stages as they took the game to Western Province. Border Ladies played the game to their strengths, dominating upfront and in the scrums, while offloading to Dumke to win the hard yards. Their tackling and defending were also brilliant.
The home team defended well, but could not avoid giving away two penalties, which were kicked by Border Ladies flyhalf Yonela Nobanda to put them 6-0 up. Border capitalised on their dominance by putting left wing, Sesethu Mbodli, over in the corner for the first try of the match.
DHL Western Province had to dig deep to make amends. They showed good hands as right wing Veroeshka Grain took the ball into the 22 before it was sent to left wing Simamkele Namba to score. Namba thought she had scored a second just before half-time, but it was disallowed due to a forward pass. Border took a 11-5 lead into the break.
Western Province came back after the interval with renewed energy and took the game to their visitors. It was no surprise when fullback Donelle Snyders sliced through the Border defence to score. That cut the deficit to just one point.
The momentum swung in Border’s favour again when Western Province outside centre Zintle Mpupha was yellow-carded for a cynical infringement.
Border ladies took advantage immediately, with Mbodli getting over for her second try to make it 16-10. They stretched the lead further to 21-10 with 10 minutes left, when Zintle Holofela went over for Border Ladies’ third try, which capped off a sustained period of pressure on the tryline.
The home side refused to give in, and replacement scrumhalf Felicia Jacobs got over for their third try from a quick tap with just five minutes left which gave her side hope of a late comeback.
However, Border Ladies had the final say, as a late penalty from Nobanda all but sealed the win.
An emotional Dumke praised her team-mates after the final whistle and said:“It’s difficult to explain my feelings now, but I can only laud the discipline, hard work and unity of this team, they never gave up.
“Playing against Western Province is never easy, because they never stop playing, but we remained in the fight until the end and for that, I respect all these girls, they’ve made me proud.”