FNB UP-Tuks showed immense character to hold off the juggernaut that is FNB Maties to win the tenth instalment of the FNB Varsity Cup presented by Steinhoff International competition with the scoreboard glowing 28-21 (halftime 13-15) after 80 minutes in an exhilarating final at the Tuks Rugby Stadium on Monday, 17 April 2017.
FNB UP-Tuks became only the second university (after FNB Maties) to win the coveted trophy on three occasions and the men from Pretoria did so on a perfect autumn evening in the capital.
It was the visitors who started with a bang as lock Janco Venter crashed over for a seven-point try after a few solid phases of play from the Maroon Machine. Flyhalf Chris Smith added the extras to give the Stellenbosch University a 0-9 lead.
FNB UP-Tuks cut into that lead three minutes later when Captain Fantastic and flank Chris Massyn barged over to claim a try of his own. Flyhalf Tinus de Beer converted to make it a two-point ball game within 10 minutes of the match.
FNB Maties' sharpshooters Smith and Tiaan Swanepoel (fullback) were on hand to punish the home team for their ill discipline as they slotted two penalties while De Beer nailed a penalty of his own to bring the curtain down on a gripping first half.
FNB Maties kept the scoreboard ticking early in the second half when Smith sliced the uprights within a minutes of play to extend the Stellenbosch students' lead to 13-18.
FNB UP-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. De Beer converted and added a penalty minutes later 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 on the home side.
FNB UP-Tuks suffered a huge setback when replacement prop Jaco Holtzhausen was sin-binned which FNB Maties duly capitalised on through the boot of Smith to reduce the score to 25-21.
De Beer was on hand to add his final points of the night in the 67th minute when he kicked yet another penalty goal to increase FNB UP-Tuks' slender lead over the visitors.
The teams proceeded to throw everything at each other with time running out but it was De Beer who put up his hand as he consistently kept FNB Maties pinned in their own half with his field kicks. FNB Maties had an opportunity to snatch victory from the clutches of defeat but a forward pass brought an end to their movement and handed FNB UP-Tuks the 2017 Varsity Cup trophy.
FNB Player that Rocks: Clyde Davids (FNB UP-Tuks)
FNB UP-Tuks: 28
Tries: Chris Massyn, Divan Rossouw (7 pt try)
Cons: Tinus de Beer (2)
Pens: De Beer (4)
Yellow card: Jaco Holtzhausen
FNB Maties: 21
Tries: Janco Venter (7 pt try)
Cons: Chris Smith
Pens: Smith (3), Tiaan Swanepoel
Yellow card: Janco Venter
FNB 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.
FNB 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 Saal.