UP-Tuks held off Maties (Stellenbosch University) to win the 10th Varsity Cup with a final score of 28–21 (half-time 13-15) in an exhilarating final at the Tuks Rugby Stadium on Monday night.
UP-Tuks became only the second university (after Maties) to win the coveted trophy on three occasions and the men from Pretoria did so on a perfect autumn evening in the capital.
The visitors started with a bang as lock Janco Venter crashed over for a seven-point try after a few solid phases of play from his team. Flyhalf Chris Smith scored the extra points to give Maties a 9–0 lead.
Tuks cut into that lead three minutes later when captain and flank Chris Massyn barged over to claim a try of his own. Flyhalf Tinus de Beer then converted to make it a two-point game.
Maties’ sharpshooters Smith and Tiaan Swanepoel (fullback) punished the home team for their persistence, slotting two penalties, while De Beer nailed a penalty of his own to bring the curtain down on a gripping first half.
Maties kept the scoreboard ticking early in the second half with Smith slicing the uprights to extend the Stellenbosch students’ lead to 13–18.
Tuks outside centre Divan Rossouw handed his team the lead when he intercepted a wayward pass to race in untouched and score a phenomenal seven-point try in the 46th minute.
Minutes later, De Beer converted and added a penalty to give the Pretoria students a handy 25–18 lead with just under 30 minutes left to play.
The final lapsed into a period of back-and-forth play between the two teams as they battled for supremacy with the packed stadium frantically cheering for the home side.
Tuks suffered a huge setback when replacement prop Jaco Holtzhausen was sinbinned, which Maties’ Smith duly capitalised on to reduce the gap to 25–21.
De Beer scored his final points of the night in the 67th minute, kicking yet another penalty goal to increase Tuks’ slender lead over the visitors.
The teams proceeded to throw everything at each other with time running out, but De Beer consistently kept Maties pinned in their own half with his field kicks.
Maties had an opportunity to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat but a forward pass brought an end to their movement and handed Tuks the 2017 Varsity Cup trophy.
UP-Tuks: 28 – Tries: Chris Massyn, Divan Rossouw (7 pt try). Cons: Tinus de Beer (2). Pens: De Beer (4).
FNB Maties: 21 – Tries: Janco Venter (7 pt try). Cons: Chris Smith. Pens: Smith (3), Tiaan Swanepoel
UP-Tuks: 15. Manie Libbok, 14. Dewald Naude, 13. Divan Rossouw, 12. Joshua Stander, 11. Sibahle Maxwane, 10. Tinus de Beer, 9. Andre Warner, 8. Clyde Davids, 7. Chris Massyn (c), 6. Marco van Staden, 5. Aston Fortuin, 4. Brian Leitch, 3. Neethling Fouche, 2. Corniel Els, 1. Andrew Beerwinkel
Replacements: 16. Jan-Henning Campher, 17. Jaco Holtzhausen, 18. Marius Verwey, 19. Eduan Lubbe, 20. Theo Maree, 21. Toko Maebane, 22. Keanan van Wyk, 23. Franco van den Berg
Maties: 15. Tiaan Swanepoel, 14. Kyle Steyn, 13. Michal Haznar, 12. Chris Smit, 11. Craig Barry (c), 10. Chris Smith, 9. Brendon Nell, 8. Devon Nash, 7. Kobus van Dyk, 6. Mitchell Carstens, 5. Janco Venter, 4. Ian Groenewald, 3. Niel Oelofse, 2. Craig Corbett, 1. Wesley Adonis
Replacements: 16. HJ Luus, 17. Ricky Ngwabara, 18. Wikus Groenewald, 19. Johan Momsen, 20. Stephan Streicher, 21. Remu Malan, 22. Ernst Stapelberg, 23. Duncan Saa