FNB CUT Ixias will play in the 2015 FNB Varsity Cup presented by Steinhoff International after they won 35-26 against the FNB UKZN Impi in the Varsity Shield Final in Bloemfontein on Monday.
The Men from Bloemfontein celebrate becoming champions for the second consecutive year and the third time in total, but it is the first time that they have managed to gain promotion up to the Varsity Cup. Meanwhile, it will be back to the training field for the Impi, as they have a promotion/relegation game against FNB UJ in Potchefstroom next week. The Impi had a strong wind at their back in the first half but it was the Ixias who got the early territory with clever kicking from scrumhalf Stephan Grisel.
It was an nervy start from both sides in such an important game and it showed, which unforced errors littering the early exchanges. The men from KwaZulu-Natal were guilty of more mistakes and the Ixias were agressive at the breakdowns and the turnovers began to hurt the Impi. A lost lineout in the ninth minute lead to the first try of the game as quick ball was sent to the backs where the centres combined well. Johan van Schalkwyk popped a great ball to Duan Pretorius who had wrapped around at pace and found fullback Charles Hitchcock who timed his pass brilliantly to send right wing Alec Mhlanga over in the right hand corner.
Just four minutes later the Ixias were in to score again. They won a turnover in their own half and Hitchcock broke away down the left but was caught by the cover defence. The Bloemfontein-based side won a scrum just inside the Impi 22 metre area and another silky backline play saw the ball shifted quickly from flyhalf Noel Marx to Pretorius who cantered over to score and then added the conversion.
The visitors tried to strike back, just before the first half strategy break, by setting up a lineout just five metres from the CUT line but their attempts to maul the ball over the line came to nothing and once again the hosts managed to make a turnover at the breakdown and clear their lines. The UKZN scrum was working well though and they won two further scrum penalties as they dominated the setpiece.
The visitors started to put the very strong wind at their backs to good use as flyhalf Duncan Campbell unleashed a massive touchfinder from inside his own half. The Impi set up the five metre lineout in the 33rd minute and after the maul didn’t work out, they sent it wide and Campbell stepped through the defence to score near to the posts before chipping over the extra three points to leave his side trailing by just 8-13 at half-time.
CUT were almost made to rue an early second half error as they knocked on from the kick off and Zwela Zondi went over to score after a break from scrumhalf Cameron Wright, but on review the TMO determined that Deon Carney had obstructed Mhlanga to create the gap for Wright to go through and the Ixias got the penalty and a reprieve. Great work from Pretorius soon extended the Ixias’ lead as they won a penalty by forcing Brandon Bailing to hold on and then nailed the kick to give the hosts a 15-8 lead after 47 minutes.
The Impi scrum continued to work wonders for them, just two minutes later, as they forced a penalty on CUT’s feed and set up a five metre lineout. This time their maul was successful and they rumbled over the line for hooker Dean Muir to dot down. Campbell added the tricky sideline conversion to put UKZN into the lead for the first time. Pretorius put his side back into the lead with another good strike from the tee from over 30 metres to make it 17-16 to CUT after 60 minutes.
The advantage didn’t last long as CUT No.8 Dean Kouprianoff hit Wright late after a kick and it gave Campbell a chance to put the Impi back in front from a penalty kick on the 22, which he duly did to edge the Impi ahead 18-17. A moment of magic from Griesel followed as he broke away from a CUT scrum just inside the Impi 22 and stepped past the covering tackle of Hendrik Lategan to charge over to score a vital try. Pretorius added the conversion to give the Ixias a 25-18 lead with 15 minutes to play.
The Impi hit back with sustained pressure and eventually it told as Deon Carney barged over from close range and Campbell was on hand to put UKZN ahead once more – 26-25 with 10 minutes left. Pretorius was not done and the CUT inside centre broke away from his own half and beat a few defenders before Hitchcock went on a mazy run, skipping past more Impi players and offloading to Fanie Coetzer to go over for the try to make it 33-26 to the Ixias with eight minutes to go.
CUT flyhalf Noel Marx added a long-range drop-goal from close to 40 metres out after 74 minutes to put the seal the game for the home side as they saw out the game to secure progression to the Varsity Cup for the first time
For FNB CUT Ixias:
Tries: Mhlanga, Pretorius, Griesel, Coetzer
Cons: Pretorius 3
Pens: Pretorius 2
For FNB UKZN Impi:
Tries:Campbell, Muir, Carney