Seven of the greatest opening round matches in Varsity Cup history.
The players have put in the hard yards, the stage is set and thousands of first years are ready for their first taste of Varsity Cup entertainment. Round One never fails to deliver. In fact, matches are so tight that more matches have been drawn in the opening round than in any other in the tournament’s history. Six draws in 11 opening rounds. With the mouth-watering prospect of Maties facing Wits, UJ up against NWU and the latest Cape derby – UCT vs UWC – here’s a look back at some thrillers past.
2008: Starting in style
In the very first Varsity Cup match ever played, juggernauts Maties and Tuks collided. Danie Craven was packed – 17 000 spectators watched on as Jaco Peyper sounded his whistle and marked history.
With just 7 minutes on the clock, Maties were leading 31-10. But tries by Torsten van Jaarsveld, Gerhard van den Heever and Shaun Davids were all converted, as Tuks drew level with the final kick of the game.
Full time: FNB Maties 31-31 FNB Tuks
2010: The epic UCT comeback you forgot about
FNB UCT were staring down the barrel. Their opening match looking a lost cause against FNB Shimlas in Bloem. But in the 75th minute, Marcello Sampson scored a try, which was converted by Douglas Mallet to put the m just three points behind.
Four minutes into stoppage time, FNB UCT were awarded a penalty, which super-sub Mallet converted to complete the comeback and draw the match 30-all.
Full time: FNB Shimlas 30-30 FNB UCT
Just because it never gets old, here's the one you DO remember.
2013: A miserly affair
The Green Mile played host to the lowest-scoring match in Varsity Cup history in 2013. Jonathan Kaplan officiated his very first Varsity Cup match as the men from the Eastern Cape retained the Monte Taljaard trophy, which they won the previous year on a windy night in the Mother City, thanks to a second half try by flanker Ulrich Pretorius.
Full time: FNB UCT 5-5 FNB Madibaz
2014: Madibaz magic
In one of the finest performances the tournament has ever seen, a second half hattrick by Chris Cloete, who ended on five tries for the night, along with a Tim Agaba try, led FNB Madibaz to an historic victory over FNB Maties.
Full time: FNB Madibaz 45-29 FNB Maties
On the same night, in another bizarre encounter, not a single second half point was scored as FNB Tuks drew to FNB UJ, despite the Pretoria fire power of Warrick Gelant and Rohan Janse van Rensburg.
Full time: FNB Tuks 18-18 FNB UJ
2015: Double trouble
FNB Shimlas overcame a half-time defecit to draw 29-all with FNB Tuks with two converted second half tries. They would go on to remain undefeated and win the 2015 tournament – their first and only Varsity Cup title.
Full time: FNB Shimlas 29-29 FNB Tuks
Incredibly, there would be two draws on the night, as there was late drama in Cape Town as FNB UCT scored two tries in the final 7 minutes to draw level with rivals FNB Maties. The Ikeys had taken a lead in the fourth minute thanks to Dylan Sage before FNB Maties surged into a 14-point lead. FNB UCT did what they do best and FNB Maties missed a stoppage time penalty attempt to leave the scores at 32-all.
Full time: FNB UCT 32-32 FNB Maties
2018: FNB Wits make their mark
After falling agonisingly short of a semi-final position in 2017, FNB Wits made their intentions known in the opening match of the 2018 season.
Falling behind 26-16 to hosts FNB UCT, it was winger Kasande Kapepula who shone for the Joburg side, helping them complete a comeback and launch a 2018 campaign that saw them reach their first ever semi-final.
Full time: FNB UCT 26-30 FNB Wits
Relive the match in 60 seconds here!