There will be new champions crowned in the FNB Varsity Cup presented by Steinhoff International this year after FNB UP-Tuks crashed out in a dramatic final round of league action before the semifinals next week.
The defending champions were overhauled by three-time champions FNB Maties who scored five tries after half-time in Stellenbosch to win 41-24 and set up a semifinal clash with Cape rivals FNB UCT, whilst the table-topping FNB NWU-Pukke will host FNB NMMU who snuck into the play-offs in truly dramatic fashion.
A last-minute try from replacement hooker Martin Ferreira saw the Madibaz earn two bonus points in their 34-33 defeat to FNB UFS-Shimlas in Bloemfontein which was just enough to put the Eastern Cape side through and break UFS-Shimlas hearts as they fell just short.
In a nail-biting final round of league action there were wins for NWU-Pukke and UCT who will host the two semifinals next week, with NWU-Pukke coming from behind to beat FNB UJ 24-20 in Potchefstroom and UCT proving too strong for FNB Wits who went down 25-5 in their last Varsity Cup match before they drop back down to the Varsity Shield next year.
In the early match UFS-Shimlas looked to have booked their semifinal spot with a bonus-point victory before Ferreira’s late try saw the Madibaz leapfrog them on the log.
The North-South clash in Stellenbosch – a replay of last year’s final at the same venue – was effectively a quarterfinal, and a match-winning performance from Maties flyhalf Robert du Preez inspired the home team as they handed UP-Tuks their third consecutive defeat to knock them out of the competition.
NWU-Pukke continued the trend of comebacks in Potchefstroom as they fought back to score three quick tries which saw UJ slump to their fifth defeat of the season.
The Johannesburg side will have to play a promotion/relegation play-off with the team that loses the Varsity Shield Final, whilst Wits will be automatically replaced by the Varsity Shield champions after finishing on the bottom of the standings without a single win.
Wits have not won a game in their two seasons in the Cup competition, but any thoughts of a fairytale farewell for them were extinguished by UCT who ran in five tries to maintain their perfect away record and finish in second place, booking a fifth home semifinal in seven season of Varsity Cup action.
In the Varsity Shield there were wins for FNB Fort Hare and FNB UKZN who are the only two teams still in the running to face defending champions FNB CUT in the final this season.
Fort Hare ran riot against FNB UWC in Bellville, scoring seven tries as they recorded a big 51-29 win against former Springbok coach Peter de Villiers’ side.
John Mitchell’s UKZN Impi also had a big win, running in eight tries on their way to a resounding 55-24 victory over the FNB TUT Vikings in Pretoria.
There was just one Varsity Young Guns match on Monday night with NWU-Pukke and UFS-Shimlas playing out a tense 26-26 draw in Potchefstroom which saw the Bloemfontein side squeeze into the semifinals and ending NWU-Pukke’s campaign.
In the Steinhoff Koshuisrugby Championships there were wins for Steinhoff Heimat from UFS, Steinhoff Purple Cobras from UCT and Steinhoff Medies from Maties as they all booked semifinal places.
Heimat beat Steinhoff Majuba from UJ 47-16 to stay unbeaten and top the Hi-Fi Corporation pool, with the Cobras’ 34-13 victory over Steinhoff Humanities from Wits booking their semifinal spot, whilst in Stellenbosch Medies saw off the challenge from Steinhoff Onderstepoort to go through.