The FNB NWU-Pukke opened their 2014 FNB Varsity Cup presented by Steinhoff International campaign in clinical fashion as they beat the FNB Ikey Tigers by 47-24 at the Green Mile on Monday.
The Men from Potchefstroom made a mockery of the notoriously windy conditions in Cape Town, as they built on their 21-16 half-time lead to run in four second-half tries as they played into the wind.
It was FNB UCT who made all the early running as the hosts, and 2011 champions, powered into an early 16-0 lead – using their opportunities well into the breeze.
The wind on the Green Mile is always a factor but the hosts launched two brilliant counter-attacks against the wind in the lead-up to their tries; the first counter by right-wing Richard Stewart and later by wing partner Liheli Xoli.
UCT’s opening tries were scored by fullback Ross Jones-Davies and powerful flanker Shaun McDonald – both expertly converted by new flyhalf Dean Grant – as the hosts showed they meant business by going 16-0 up.
However, the visitors absorbed all the early pressure and launched a fightback as the game reached the half-hour mark. Pukke’s kicking game kept them in the opposition’s half, as the Ikeys were guilty of trying to play too much rugby against the wind and forcing a few passes.
First NWU-Pukke No.8 Juan Language crashed over from a rolling maul and then fullback Sylvian Mahuza finished well from a clinical Pukke counter attack – and some poor first-time tackling by UCT – to put his team within touching distance at just 13-16 down.
That deficit soon became an advantage when the impressive Mahuza finished brilliantly from close-range, leaving a would-be defender in his wake with some nifty footwork.
Scrumhalf and captain Tiaan Dorfling converted from wide out and Pukke neared half-time with a 21-16 advantage – knowing, however, that they would have to play the second half into the wind.
UCT made the advantage – of having the wind at their backs – count early on when Jones-Davies collected his own chip ahead from close-range to dive over for his second try. Grant converted and the Ikeys ran back to halfway – ahead by 24-21.
However, that is where it ended for the hosts as Pukke showed great resolve to hit back less then five minutes later when their SA Under-20 flyer Luther Obi ran in strongly on the right-hand side.
Dorfling could not convert their fourth try – as Pukke grabbed a try bonus point – but at 26-24 up the match was still in the balance, although from that point onwards (as the game neared the 50-minute mark) Pukke kept hold of the ball and denied UCT possession and, with it, the advantage of having the wind behind them.
The Ikeys then suffered a double blow just before the start of the final quarter when the visitors scored a try under the posts through replacement forward Philip de Wet – which Dorfling converted for a 34-24 lead – but worse was to follow right afterwards when Ikeys reserve Jason Klaasen was sin-binned.
Klaasen’s absence was not felt on the scoreboard, but it meant more work for his teammates and, as a result, tired the Ikeys out ahead of the final ten minutes – as the visitors continued to boss the possession stakes.
Pukke were then able to rub further salt into their wounds by scoring two more tries – through lock Francois Robbertse and replacement forward Daniel Jordaan. Dorfling converted Robbertse’s try as they neared the 50-point mark, the visitors finishing with seven tries to UCT’s three – a statistic which is tough to argue against.
For FNB UCT:
Tries: Jones-Davies 2, McDonald
Cons: Grant 3
For FNB NWU-Pukke:
Tries: Language, Mahuza 2, Obi, De Wet, Robbertse, Jordaan
Cons: Dorfling 4