FNB UP-Tuks survived a second half resurgence by FNB UFS-Shimlas to win their FNB Varsity Cup presented by Steinhoff International semi-final 28-21 (halftime 23-9) at the Tuks Rugby Stadium on Monday, 3 April.
Qualify for the Varsity Cup semi-finals and the supporters will come, which is exactly what happened in Pretoria as the students turned out in numbers to back their boytjies against the University of the Free State.
It was the visitors who upped the ante in the opening minutes as they attacked in waves causing FNB UP-Tuks to scramble in defence. A cheeky quick tap by scrumhalf Dian Badenhorst almost resulted in a try to FNB UFS-Shimlas but the TMO adjudged the ball to have been lost forward. This spurred the home team to get their act together which culminated in flyhalf Tinus de Beer exploiting a gap to put wing Sibahle Maxwane into space to score the opening try in the 12th minute.
Both teams lulled into passages of attack on either side of the first strategy break with neither team able to crack the defensive line. Maxwane was the man to change the status quo in the 26th minute when he jinxed his way past several defenders to score his second try of the night and FNB UP-Tuks' first seven-point try.
A fantastic kick-and-chase by fullback Divan Rossouw several minutes later put the men from Pretoria in the right space to exploit FNB UFS-Shimlas' defensive weaknesses which saw scrumhalf and captain Andre Warner score the home team's third try of the evening.
An intercept by fullback Marco Mason on the visitor's five-metre line allowed the abrasive runner to gallop up field and set the tone for flanker Phumzile Maqondwana to open the FNB UFS-Shimlas account with minutes left in the first half. Mason converted to cut the half time deficit to 23-9.
The halftime chat must have be gruelling for the visitors as they came out of the change room a different team as they put FNB UP-Tuks under the cosh. Several penalties against the Pretoria students allowed FNB UFS-Shimlas to set up a line-out drive which saw replacement hooker Hanno Snyman cross the line.
FNB UP-Tuks were forced to contain the visitor's onslaught with 14 men after flank Marco van Staden was yellow carded in the 52nd minute for repeated team transgressions. This set the platform for FNB UFS-Shimlas to score their third try through lock Neil Claassen. Mason could not level the scores as his conversion went wide.
Much like in the first half, both teams struggled to break through the defensive line on either side of the strategy break but this did not stop the two universities from running flat out at each other. The deadlock was finally broken when hooker Corniel Els broke off the back of a dominant FNB UP-Tuks driving maul to score in the 72nd minute. De Beer could not extend the lead.
FNB UFS-Shimlas continued to press hard on attack in the dying minutes of the match, with the visitors making regular inroads into the opposition's territory but in the end it was not to be as FNB UP-Tuks held on to win 28-21 and thus secure a home final against FNB Maties.
FNB Player that Rocks: Tinus de Beer (FNB UP-Tuks)
FNB UP-Tuks: 28
Tries: Sibahle Maxwane (five-point, seven-point), Andre Warner, Corniel Els
Cons: Tinus de Beer (3)
Yellow cards: Marco van Staden
FNB UFS-Shimlas: 21
Tries: Phumzile Maqondwana (seven-point), Hanno Snyman, Neil Claassen
Cons: Marco Mason (2)
FNB UP-Tuks: 15. Divan Rossouw, 14.Dewald Naude, 13. Toko Maebane, 12. Impi Visser, 11. Sibahle Maxwane, 10. Tinus De Beer, 9. Andre Warner (c), 8. Clyde Davids, 7. Eduan Lubbe, 6. Marco van Staden, 5. Aston Fortuin, 4. Brian Leitch, 3. Neethling Fouche, 2. Els Corniel, 1 Andrew Beerwinkel.
Replacements: 16. Jan-Henning Campher, 17. Jaco Holtzhausen, 18. Marius Verwey, 19. Jsuan-Re Swanepoel, 20. Theo Maree, 21. Manie Libbok, 22. Joshua Stander, 23. Franco van den Berg.
FNB UFS-Shimlas: 15. Marco Mason, 14. Vuyani Maqina, 13. Lihleli Xoli, 12. Stephan Janse van Rensburg (c), 11. Carel Wynand Coetzee, 10. Nicholas Naude, 9. Dian Badenhorst, 8. Wilandre Kotzenberg, 7. Phumzile Maqondwana, 6. Daniel Maartens, 5. Neil Claassen, 4. Nicolaas Immelman, 3. Ruan Kramer, 2. Anrich Alberts, 1. Kwenzokuhle Blose.
Replacements: 16. Hanno Snyman, 17. Johan Kotze, 18. Thabiso Msiza, 19. Raymond Woest, 20. Nardus Erasmus, 21. Armand Pretorius, 22. Rayhaan Lombaard, 23. Sechaba Matsoele
By Dan Lombard