DURBAN - The headline match in round eight of the Varsity Cup lived up to its billing when trans-Jukskei rivals Tuks and UJ produced a 30-30 thriller in Pretoria.
The home team seemed dead and buried at 0-21 after the first quarter, but showed remarkable fighting spirit to gradually haul in the Johannesburgers. Tuks have not had the best of seasons and the draw inches them up the ladder away from the relegation zone.
UJ did all the early playing in Pretoria. Wian Conradie bustled over after a sustained period of pressure from the kick-off on the Tuks line. The score stretched out to 13-10 when Kobus Engelbrecht kicked penalties in quick succession, and things became ominous from the home crowd when flank James Venter scrambled over for a try that was converted for a 21-0 Lead at the 20 minute interval.
Tuks woke up after a stern talking to at the break and immediately scored when centre Marnus Potgieter slipped through the defence. His try was converted by Christo Hamman.
The Tuks comeback was halted when UJ wing Odwa Nkunjana sped home to the corner, and Engelbrecht nailed a fine conversion from the touchline for a 27-7 lead.
Tuks kept on fighting, though, and burly replacement flank Johan Grobbelaar barged over for a try as the game hit the second-half strategy break, and Hamman’s conversion gave them renewed hope at 27-14.
And when wing Cameron Huffke scored in the 68th minute, and Hamman converted, a dramatic finale was on the cards at 27-23 to the visitors.
Engelbrecht gave UJ a little breathing space with a penalty goal five minutes from time, but it would not be enough not be enough. Tuks No 8 Grobbelaar rampaged over from the back of a scrum for his second try and the scores were level at 30-30 when the conversion went over just as the final whistle was sounding.
The #FNBVarsityCup11 log after all the round 8 action. The draw between @TuksSport and @UJ_Sport has thrown a cat amoungst the pidgeons! @WitsSport have a bye and @ikeytigers play FNB UJ next week to determine 3rd and 4th place!
Proudly brought to you by @SteersSA and @fnbsa pic.twitter.com/KhLTNBGUnN
In the earlier game in Bloemfontein, CUT Ixias seemed to be heading for a hiding from visiting Ikeys but the home team were fighting for their lives to avoid relegation and staged a spirited second-half comeback. But they could not overhaul the Cape Town side that had led from the start, and went down 30-22.
The result meant Ikeys have climbed the ladder away from the relegation and have some breathing space but Ixias are in trouble.