The Steinhoff International Varsity Cup will remain in Cape Town after UCT (Ikeys) beat Tukkies 26-16 at the Tuks Rugby stadium in Pretoria on Monday evening.
FNB UCT came from behind, trailing 10-16 against FNB Tuks at halftime, to keep the home team scoreless after the break and win at their third attempt in a Final.
It was a final decided through the doggedness of the Ikeys, who held out in the face of 10 minutes of relentless pressure from the Tuks team, who took the ball through more than 20 phases at one stage – without being able to breach the visitors’ defence.
Early Tuks mistakes cost them and Ikeys were also made to pay for a litany of errors. Tuks were also more effective at the breakdown in the first half, as the hand of Heyneke Meyer could clearly be seen – both in terms of tactics and passion. UCT were also not dealing very well with the high bombs raining on them, as the Tuks halfback pairing of flyhalf Wesley Dunlop, also the captain, and No 9 Danie Faasen dictated terms with their accurate tactical kicking.
The University of Johannesburg beat the defending Champions Maties team 39 – 19 last night at the Craven Stadium in Stellenbosch last night to secure a home semi-final spot and a possible final in the FNB Varsity Cup.
Full marks to UJ coach Hugo van As and his staff. They took a hesitant team and turned them into the complete product: a good, competing pack; a backline without any over-elaboration – and with the skill and ability to use turn-over ball.
The Maties, champions for the first three years of the competition, lost their third match in this year’s competition and failed to make the play-offs for the first time. UJ, on the other hand, made it to the play-offs for the first time.
The North and South derby in the Varsity Cup made for quite an upset last night as the University of Johannesburg and Tukkies came away with wins over UCT and Maties.
UJ jumped to the top spot on the table as they recorded a 34-22 bonus-point victory over Ikeys in Cape Town. A strong second half showing saw the visitors build a commanding lead and they managed to restrict UCT at the death for an impressive win.
The hosts led 10-7 at half time thanks to an early try by fullback Therlow Pietersen and the boot of Demetri Catrakilis. Skipper Justin Wheeler kept UJ within reach at the break.
Then UJ dominated. They scored three tries in the second stanza through fullback Aubrey McDonald, flyhalf Theuns Kotze and flanker Wendal Wehr. Ikeys hit back through two tries of their own as replacement back Mark Winter and wing Paul Cohen dotted down but UJ held on for the crucial win. The defeat sees UCT plummet to fourth spot after their second consecutive defeat.
In Pretoria, Tuks achieved the biggest result of the round as they triumphed 27-13 against defending champions Maties.
The University of Stellenbosch rugby team the Maties ended UCT’s Ikeys’ unbeaten run last night in the FNB Varsity Cup by beating them 37 – 16 at Grootte Schuur last night.
The match was played at an incredibly fast tempo as the Maties and the Ikey Tigers – last year’s finalists – reignited their bitter rivalry to battle for bragging rights in the Western Cape.
The Ikeys struggled to settle into their running game thanks to some ferocious tackling by the Maties, which they followed up by exerting their physical dominance at the rucks.
The intensity shown by the defending champions had the Ikeys on the back foot for much of the game and the robust Maties pack dictated proceedings almost throughout.
However, UCT did have their moments and can be a very dangerous side on the counter-attack – mustering a late comeback in the second half that gave the home supporters something to cheer about.
It was a fitting finale to two months of Rugby that Rocks, and the Maties, who were undeniably the best team in the competition from start to finish, were fitting winners. It was easier this time than last years final minute win over UCT, but nonetheless the Pukke proved doughty opponents before going down 11-6.
The match was played in front of a massive crowd, even bigger than in 2008, when the decider was a local derby, and this gave credibility to organiser Francois Pienaars claim that this years competition was bigger and better than the inaugural one, and is destined to get better still.
Although it was a low scoring game, and there seemed to be a greater element of finals type rugby this year, the final did show a marked improvement in the standard of rugby dished up — as has been the case for most of the competition. There was plenty of running from both sides, but the defences were well organised, and the forward exchanges were quite ferocious.
Pukke had been known for their conservative rugby in the league stages, but they brought an element of surprise to their approach in the early stages, with impressive No 8 and captain bursting through to put his team on the attack as the Pukke sought to use the width of the field.
That pressure resulted in a penalty which was kicked by flyhalf Cecil Dumond, but it was a lead that was not to last long. The Maties got their intensity up, they began to settle, and after playing themselves into the left corner, they spun the ball quickly down the line, long passes doing the work, from a set scrum to put wing Morne Jooste over in the corner.
For a while it looked as though the Maties might take control, for they were scrumming impressively, and their work at the breakdowns was impressive, with skipper Wesley Wilkins leading the way. With Maties also enjoying territorial advantage, and swarming all over their opponents, it looked only a matter of time before the hosts would take control on the scoreboard too.
But full marks to Pukke for the way they hung on in the bedlam, most of it in the form of support for Maties, that engulfed the stadium, and in the second half of the first half they looked to be coming back into it.
Indeed, the Potchefstroom students would have been kicking themselves at half-time for not being in the lead, for they had a couple of opportunities just before the break to take the psychological advantage of scoring just before the turn-around.
The University of Stellenbosch (FNB Maties) have continued their unbeaten run of form with a 31-10 win over Potchefstroom’s FNB Pukke in their Varsity Cup Round Four match at the Danie Craven Stadium on Monday.
Waiting till deep into injury time before scoring the bonus-point try, the defending champions in the FNB Varsity Cup presented by Steinhoff International remained on course for home ground advantage in the play-offs next month.
The visitors tried bravely, but their were never able to keep up with the blistering pace set by the Maties and also did not control their possession well enough to build up any pressure on the home team.
However, as Pukke captain Willem van der Wal said, if the Potchefstroom outfit win all their remaining games, they can also still make the play-offs.
However, this time the day belonged to an impressive Maties outfit, who showed a willingness to play an exciting, expansive brand of rugby from the outset – obviously aiming to avoid getting involved in an arm-wrestle with a Pukke team short on genuine pace and skill.
Pukke did launch a few impressive attacks, but those simply did not have the same venom as their opponents’ efforts.
The Maties scrum was also too strong and Pukke did not get enough quality ball to play with.
The home team got off to a flying start when flyhalf Coenie Van Wyk scored the first try inside 50 seconds – coming after a dropped pass inside the Maties half gave the Stellenbosch students a chance to counter. Good hands and a neat touch with the boot set up the try for Van Wyk try. Donald Stevens added the conversion for a 7-0 lead.
Pukke bounced right back and had the home team under pressure – with a penalty following a scrum infringement and Teuns Kotzé slotted the kick to narrow the gap to 3-7.
But the helter-skelter nature of the game continued and the Stellenbosch team was soon back on the attack. Another neat grubber and some great pressure saw Van Wyk go over in the corner for his second try – with Stevens adding a second conversion to make it 14-3 after nine minutes.
From the restart Stellenbosch conceded another penalty, but this time the shot by Teuns Kotzé was wide of the mark.
The FNB Varsity Cup is back from the 2nd February to early April. “We’re taking Mondays back!” Francois Pienaar, former World Cup winning Springbok captain declared at the launch on Monday.
“I don’t know how to measure my side,” said Rudy Joubert, former Springbok assistant coach and a World Cup winner with Pienaar in 1995 when he was the Boks’ technical advisor.
He has just moved to Potchefstroom where he coaches the national champions NWU Pukke who lost to a last-second penalty (32-31) in last year’s Varsity Cup semifinal.
“We have oodles of talent, but not much experience at the back. However, there is so much character that I’m confident,” he said, lauding the structures put in place by former coach Matthew Proudfoot, who is now with Western Province.
Losing 2008 finalists Ikeys (UCT) were determined to do well, but coach John Dobson admitted it could be difficult.
“We caught the guys somewhat unawares last year,” he mused. “We were young and we were too light to get into forward battles and decided to run everything wide. Fleckie (former Springbok centre Robbie Fleck), did wonders and will be back this season.
“We’re hoping for the best and will follow the same approach this year,” promised Dobson.
Champions Maties, who won the 2008 final on the stroke of the hooter when they beat Ikeys, have been working hard.