Tries: Andre Smith, Hugo Kloppers, Hein van der Merwe. Conversions: Donald Stevens (2)
Finally. There may have been some heart-stopping moments but in the end Tuks prevailed to earn themselves a hard-fought 29-21 victory over arch-rivals and three-time champions Maties to be crowned FNB Varsity Cup champions.
The victory was not only the first one for Tuks, who lost last years final to UCT Ikeys but it was the first time since the inception of the competition four years ago that the trophy has been won by a team from outside Western province territory.
Playing at home and in front of a boisterous capacity crowd, Tuks dished out a controlled and measured performance against a team that was the only one to beat them during the league stages of the competition.
This time around Tuks were not to be outplayed by the old foe and even though they were sloppy at the lineouts and unstable at the scrums, the home side were able to courageously stave off the unrelenting waves of attack from Maties and were clinical with ball in hand.
Tuks took the initiative early in the game when centre Jerome Pretorius crashed over in the fourth minute after some sterling work by the hosts forwards to keep their team on the frontfoot and after receiving a long pass from flyhalf Wesley Dunlop, Pretorius cantered over the line.
From then on Tuks relied heavily on their resolute and uncompromising defence which time and time thwarted what seemed like endless waves of attacks by Maties. It was in winning the brutal collisions that Tuks managed to subdue the Maties pack but soon after the strategy break Maties fullback Andre Smith took advantage of a lapse in concentration by the hosts to score an opportunistic chip and chase try and hand Maties the lead.
Just then things looked to be falling apart for the home side but two tactical substitutions by Tuks coach Nollis Marais to replace props Grant Kemp and Sabelo Nhlapo paid dividends immediately as Basil Short crashed over soon after coming onto the field to hand the advantage back to Tuks in the 32nd minute.
But the seesaw battle wasn’t over yet and Maties hit back with a try by lock Hugo Kloppers at the cusp of half-time to draw the visitors level.
That was the last hoorah from a determined Maties side as they again handed the ascendancy back to Tuks in the first minute of the first half as scrumhalf Lohan Jacobs danced past two defender to score the hosts third try.
With Maties firmly on the ropes and struggling to keep up with the step up in intensity, Tuks went for the jugular and were well rewarded as fullback Clayton Blommetjies did well to pluck the ball out of the air from a Wesley Dunlop up and under and delivered the final pass to hard working lock Franco Mostert to amble over and dot the ball under the poles.
For the remainder of the game Tuks were content on defending while they were alert enough to feed off the errors of the opposition.
The hosts watertight defence did ultimately give way as substitute Hein van der Merwe crashed over for a consolation try after the sounding of the final hooter .
In the end Tuks had collectively done enough as a team to see them through to their first Varsity Cup title and the victory was even sweeter because they did it against the old foe and undisputed champions of the competition.
UCT secured their Varsity Cup status with a nine try blitz that earned them a 60-21 win over Varsity Shield runners-up CUT in their promotion/relegation match played at the TuksRugby Stadium.
Ikeys snuffed the life out of their opposition in the first half when they crossed the whitewash six times to gain an unassailable 39-16 lead at the half-time interval.
The second half was not as easy for the defending champions as the men from Bloemfontein fought valiantly to restore their dignity and pride but in the end the scoreline proved to be a mountain too high. - Pretoria News