A late penalty from replacement Rhyno Smith saw FNB NWU-Pukke clinch a 19-18 victory over NMMU in Potchefstroom to set up their first-ever home FNB Varsity Cup presented by Steinhoff International final.
NWU-Pukke will host the FNB UCT Ikey Tigers in the final on April 7 after edging the Madibaz in a dramatic finish as the Eastern Cape side went down by a single point in their second consecutive semifinal. The home side made the early running as they surged into the NMMU 22 with purpose, and it was not long before flank Rhyk Welgemoed dived over for the opening try next to the posts.
There was no respite for the Madibaz as NWU-Pukke got right back on the front foot and some quick hands saw wing Luther Obi get over for their second try which gave them a healthy 13-0 lead inside the opening ten minutes. NMMU had hardly got their hands on the ball, and they made their first foray into opposition territory as they looked for a response, but Andile Jho was denied a try after being put over the line by a forward pass.
Two penalties from NWU-Pukke centre Adriaan Engelbrecht early in the second half saw them stretch their lead to 17-8, before some last-ditch defending saw them deny the Madibaz from scoring in the corner. However, the visitors struck soon afterwards as they launched a breathtaking counter-attack from their own territory after absorbing plenty of pressure from the hosts.
Fullback Jarryd Buys picked the ball up off his bootlaces and threw a neat dummy before releasing wing Tythan Adams who finished well, with Hauptfleisch’s conversion reducing the gap to 17-16 at the second strategy break. NMMU took the lead for the first time with just 12 minutes left to play when Buys slotted a drop-goal which set up a tense finish as both teams chased a first-ever home final.
However, Smith stepped up with just two minutes left on the clock and sent the ball sailing through the uprights to the delight of the crowd to break Madibaz hearts.
For FNB NWU-Pukke:
Tries: Welgemoed, Obi
Pens: Engelbrecht 2, Smith
For FNB NMMU Madibaz:
Tries: Cloete, Adams
Cons: Hauptfleisch 2
In Cape Town
FNB UCT booked their place in the 2014 FNB Varsity Cup presented by Steinhoff International final with a dominant 20-8 victory over Maties on a wet Green Mile.
The wind and rain in Cape Town made it a tricky prospect for both teams, with UCT adapting best to conditions as they scored all of their points after half-time following a scoreless first half. The visitors made a positive start to the game, pegging the Ikeys back in their own half in the slippery conditions, but they were unable to make it count on the scoreboard as the UCT defence held up well after conceding a string of penalties in their 22.
The battle up front was always going to be key given the persistent rain, and Ikeys struck a big blow when they shoved the Maties pack backwards in the first scrum of the game, which set the tone for the rest of the match. They kept the pressure on and camped on the Maties tryline for a while, but the team from Stellenbosch showed just as much resolve on defence to keep the game scoreless after an intense opening 15 minutes.
Maties made their move once more, rejecting a few opportunities to kick at goal as they looked for the opening try, and although Ikeys wing Richard Stewart was shown a yellow card for repeated infringements the Stellenbosch side could not find a way through as they went into the first strategy break without bothering the scorers. Maties looked certain to score after the ball was sent wide following a turnover in UCT territory, but left wing John Durr was forced into touch just short of the tryline as the Tigers hung tough.
Maties continued to hammer away, but Ikeys clearly had the upper hand in the set-pieces and they managed to keep them out as the teams went into the half-time break still deadlocked at 0-0. The home side had the wind at their backs in the second half, and it paid off straight away as Lihleli Xoli followed up well on a chip kick to score the opening try, with Dean Grant’s conversion putting them 8-0 up.
Grant added two penalties which took Ikeys’ lead to 12-0, and it looked a long way back for Maties with the wind and rain blowing in their faces. Some clever kicking from Grant kept Maties back in their own 22, where the Ikeys scrum put them under some considerable pressure, and it finally told as a massive shove saw UCT No.8 Michael Botha crash over for a pushover try which made it 20-0 once converted.
That left Maties with it all to do in the last ten minutes, and they were given a glimmer of hope when Ikeys captain Liam Slatem was shown a yellow card for a dangerous tackle. His opposite number Jean Nel took advantage straight away when he slid over for a try in the corner, which was converted from the touchline by flyhalf Robert du Preez, but it was not enough to avoid defeat as Ikeys booked their place in the final.
For FNB UCT:
Tries: Xoli, Botha
Cons: Grant 2
Pens: Grant 2
For FNB Maties:
Con: Du Preez