JOHANNESBURG – Bragging rights and a bunch of log points were on the line when the University of Johannesburg visited Wits in a Joburg derby on Monday night, and after a thrilling 80 minutes, it was UJ who were left punching the air and first-pumping their teammates.
UJ, thanks in no small part to a stunning second half defensive effort, won the match at the Wits Rugby Stadium 29-17 to give themselves a big chance of playing in the semi-finals in a few weeks’ time.
Wits, despite the defeat, are also still very much in the running to feature in the last four.
The visitors were certainly more switched on in the early stages of the tie and raced into a 14-0 lead after just 23 minutes after converted tries by wing Odwa Nkunjana and flank James Venter.
UJ dominated the possession at that stage and also spent most of the time camped in Wits territory, the home team guilty of poor handling and a high error count.
But on the half-hour mark, Wits struck their first blow, hooker CJ Conradie dotting down after a good lineout drive.
It was the home team’s first proper try-scoring chance and they made it count, but only minutes later they were again on the back foot when Nkunjana crossed for his second try of the afternoon.
UJ deserved their 21-5 lead, and for a long time it looked as if that would be the halftime score, but Wits scored their second try in the 44th minute through prop CJ Greef to close the gap to 11 points at the interval.
And almost straight after the restart, the rejuvenated home outfit were right back in the contest when lock Conor Brockschmidt went over from another lineout drive to reduce the deficit to just four points.
Wits were very much in charge of proceedings at that stage, and it looked as if they may turn the match on its head, but UJ centre JL la Grange scored his team’s fourth try against the run of play to almost knock the wind out of the Wits players.
They then landed a late penalty to put their score beyond the reach of Wits; their defence coming out tops in the final 15 minutes when the home side launched attack after attack.
In Potchefstroom, the North West University Pukke turned on the charm by scoring eight tries and moved into second spot on the log after comfortably getting past Shimlas 58-21, while hitherto winless Tuks of Pretoria finally got a “W” behind their name.
Former Bulls boss Nollis Marais took charge of the side last week, and they ended up easing past the Central University of Technology (CUT) team 54-26 in Bloemfontein.
In Port Elizabeth, log-leaders Maties continued their good form with a workmanlike 19-0 win against the Madibaz, who are now the only team in the competition without a win.