What a night is all I can say. One thing is certain this year we will have a new Champion as Maties was humiliated by UJ in Stellenbosch.
Other results saw UCT sneak through in Pretoria and Shimlas coming from behind to win a nail bitter in PE. And to add to all the spice, UCT engaged in some rather questionable selections which will make this Round one that will be remembered for a very long time.
Game 1: Tuks 17 UCT 19
Both teams made the semi finals with UCT ending second on the log and Tuks taking up the last spot at number four for picking up a bonus point last night.
With that bonus point for losing with less than seven points Tuks went 1 point up on Maties and secured a place in the final four.
Tuks build nicely on last week’s win over Maties as they outscored UCT in the first half. UCT had to fight hard and came from behind in the second half to win the game with a try that many at the ground believed came from a forward pass.
Nevertheless, UCT showed the calmness under pressure in the second half and although being outscored by three tries to one, the Marcel Brache try was the one that mattered as it saw them nudge into the lead for the first time in the 66th minute.
Tuks defended for their lives in the first half as they had to make 57 tackles to the 16 of UCT. UCT wasted no time in chipping away at that scoreline when flyhalf Demetri Catrakilis – who probably did not enjoy his best match of the 2011 Varsity Cup – popped over his third penalty to make it 9-12 after 45 minutes.
From then on, however, most of the game belonged to Tuks who piled on the pressure. To their credit, the Ikeys resisted but the dam-wall eventually burst in the 60th minute when former Maties centre Dabeon Draghoender crashed over for his first try this season. Dunlop missed the conversion but at 17-9 up Tuks suddenly had one foot in the semi-finals with a real chance at that stage of hosting it as-well.
UCT, however, struck back almost immediately when Catrakilis chipped over his fourth penalty in the 63rd minute, with Tuks continuing to concede penalties at the breakdown. Then came the moment of the match as Whitehead ran a superb angle off his flyhalf before off-loading a speculative pass to a flying Marcel Brache who needed no second invitation to the tryline.
Brache, who made his name in last year’s Varsity Cup, touched down near the posts for his team’s first try and levelled the scores at 17-17. Catrakilis stepped up and slotted the fairly easy conversion and, suddenly, UCT found themselves ahead for the first time since the fourth minute of the game when the selfsame Catrakilis had slotted an early penalty.
With just over 13 minutes remaining the game was by no means UCT’s but thanks to a great defensive effort, and some silly mistakes by Tukkies in those final minutes, they held on for a memorable win.
For FNB Tuks: Tries: A Coetzee, Groepes, Draghoender Con: Dunlop
For FNB UCT: Try: Brache Con: Catrakilis Pens: Catrakilis 4
Game 2: Maties 19 UJ 39
This was supposed to be the game were Maties showed that the game against Tuks was just a once-off.
No one has won at the Danie Craven stadium for almost two years against Maties and one would have thought that Maties would take all their experience of the past three tournaments and stop UJ dead in their tracks.
How the mighty are fallen in the midst of battle! The mighty Maties, who for years and years have dominated student rugby in South Africa, came crashing to ground for the second time in two weeks and have crashed out of the Varsity Cup which they seemed to have made their own. UJ thoroughly deserved the win. They did the basics much better – like scrumming, catching and passing, defensive organisation, contesting after the tackle and the line-outs.
They were better than the Maties at all those aspects. Even when the Maties dominated possession and territory in the second half, the Johannesburg side not only kept them out but kept ticking the scoreboard over in the process.
They won the second half 24-12. In fact the winning margin could have been much bigger had Theuns Kotze’s goalkicking not been way off target. Eventually André Smith took over and was unerring. André Smith’s immediate opponent was André Kemp – both of them Old Boys of Paarl Gim. The difference between the Maties side that outplayed the Ikeys and the sides outplayed by first the Tukkies and then UJ was as wide as Table Bay.
Not even ex-Matie Springboks like Hempies du Toit, Rob Louw, Robbie Blair, Divan Serfontein and Hennie Bekker, sitting proudly in their Maties colours all in one row, could inspire the team to a win.
Eventually they lost 39-19. If you believe in the basic importance of the scrum, the writing was on the wall at the very first scrum when UJ destroyed the Maties followed by high-fives all around. Maties never got their heads up after that. 39-19! A glorious day for UJ, a dismal one for Maties.
For FNB UJ: Tries: Waka 2, Paige, Steenkamp, Ries, McDonald Cons: Smith 3 DG: Smith
For FNB Maties: Tries: Hanekom, Kloppers, Jordaan Cons: Stevens 2
This will now see UCT taking on Shimlas next week at home in Cape Town and UJ rounding off the week with an all-Gauteng semi in JHB.
As I said last night the best teams are definitely in the semi final and that makes the tournament one of the best in South Africa. There is no place for half measures, reputation or history, only all out rugby all the time.