FNB Varsity Cup
FNB Maties and FNB UP-Tuks won their respective semi-finals on Monday to advance to the FNB Varsity Cup final.
FNB Maties secured their spot after thrashing rivals FNB UCT Ikeys in Cape Town. Reigning champions FNB UP-Tuks showed their class when they downed log-leaders FNB UFS Shimlas in Bloemfontein.
The upshot is that FNB Maties – who finished the regular season at third in the standings – will host FNB UP-Tuks in the decider at the Danie Craven Stadium on Monday, 25 April.
Determined defence prevailed against all-out attack when FNB UP-Tuks beat FNB UFS Shimlas 29-21 in Bloemfontein.
Fullback Stefan Coetzee kicked a penalty and then scored a try to give the visitors an 8-0 lead after seven minutes.
FNB UFS Shimlas hit back to score three tries before the break. FNB UP-Tuks did well to punish the hosts’ mistakes, however, and to stay in touch on the scoreboard.
Captain Lincoln Daniels ran through the FNB UFS Shimlas defence after half-time to reclaim the lead for his side. The visitors received another boost when Shimlas hooker Carl Wijburg was shown a yellow card for cynical play.
The ambitious hosts persisted with their ball-in-hand tactics. The FNB UP-Tuks defence was more than equal to the task, though, and managed to keep the much-vaunted attack scoreless in the second stanza.
When the visitors won a penalty in their own half in the 58th minute, Coetzee stepped up to slot the long-range goal.
For the second time in the game, FNB UP-Tuks enjoyed an eight-point lead over their more fancied opponents.
Excellent game management in the closing stages ensured that FNB UP-Tuks retained that lead, won the game, and marched on to yet another FNB Varsity Cup final.
In the first semi-final in Cape Town, hooker Sean Swart scored a hat-trick as FNB Maties hammered the FNB UCT Ikeys 58-19.
Swart equalled FNB CUT hooker Janus Venter’s record for the most tries in an FNB Varsity Cup season (12) and was named the FNB Player That Rocks.
That award could have gone to the entire FNB Maties pack that dominated at scrum time or to flyhalf Nevaldo Fleurs, who was successful with eight of 10 goal kicks in windy conditions.
The Ikey Tigers came into this semi-final as favourites, having beaten their arch-rivals 44-27 in the round seven clash at the Green Mile. But their discipline let them down (they conceded 18 penalties), they lost the forward battle and they had just 38% of the possession.
The hosts were reduced to 14 men after just 12 seconds of the match when inside centre Rethabile Louw took out an FNB Maties player in the air from the kick-off.
And the visitors made their numerical advantage count with a fifth-minute point-of origin try. Wing Anton du Toit burst down the left touchline, handed off Suleiman Hartzenberg and found scrumhalf Thomas Bursey, whose inside pass put captain Gift Dlamini away.
No sooner had the Ikey Tigers been restored to their full complement of players than captain Luthando Woji scored a try next to the posts that was initially ruled a knock-on by the referee. Fortunately for the hosts, the TMO intervened.
But FNB Maties regained the initiative when Swart scored from a lineout driving maul and fullback Sibabalwe Xamlashe dived over for a point-of-orgin try.
Fleurs slotted both conversions and a penalty to give the visitors a commanding 31-7 lead at half-time.
FNB UCT No 8 Taariq Kruger paid the price for repeated infringements by his team when he was yellow-carded early in the second half. Almost inevitably, FNB Maties kicked for the corner and Swart went over from the driving maul.
The Ikey Tigers scored while down to 14 men through flank Sipho Dyonase, before Swart completed his hat-trick.
FNB Maties lost lock Juan Beukes to the sin bin, but that didn’t prevent them from scoring another two tries to complete the rout.
The Maroon Machine will contest their 10th FNB Varsity Cup final next Monday and be chasing a record-extending sixth title.
FNB Varsity Cup semi-final results and scorers:
FNB UCT Ikeys 19 (7) – Tries: Luthando Woji, Sipho Dyonase, Thomas Meyer. Conversions: Duran Koevort (2). FNB Maties 58 (31) – Try: Gift Dlamini (1x7), Sean Swart (3), Sibabalwe Xamlashe (1x7), Thomas Bursey, Anton du Toit. Conversions: Nevaldo Fleurs (5). Penalties: Fleurs (3).
FNB Player That Rocks: Sean Swart (FNB Maties)
FNB UFS Shimlas 21 (21) – Tries: Janco van Heyningen (1x7), Thabang Mahlasi, Ruwald van der Merwe. Conversions: Litha Nkula (2). FNB UP-Tuks 29 (19) – Tries: Stefan Coetzee, Bernard van der Linde, Lincoln Daniels. Conversion: Coetzee. Penalties: Coetzee (4).
FNB Player That Rocks: Bernard van der Linde (FNB UP-Tuks)
FNB Varsity Cup final:
FNB Maties vs FNB UP-Tuks (Monday, 25 April, Danie Craven Stadium, 19:00, SuperSport channel 211)
Photos: Hannes Naude/Zaahid Appoles/Varsity Cup