There will be new Varsity Cup champions this year after an on fire Maties, spearheaded by Robert du Preez, sent Tuks crashing out of the tournament.
The defending champions were overhauled by three-time champions Maties who scored five tries after half-time in Stellenbosch to win 41-24 and set up a semifinal clash with Cape rivals UCT. This while the table-topping Pukke will host NMMU – who snuck into the play-offs in truly dramatic fashion.
In the early match Shimlas looked to have booked their semifinal spot with a bonus-point victory before a last-minute try from replacement hooker Martin Ferreira saw the Madibaz earn two bonus points in their 34-33 defeat to Shimlas in Bloemfontein, which was just enough to put the Eastern Cape side through and break Shimlas hearts.
In a nail-biting final round of league action there were wins for Pukke and UCT who will host the two semifinals next week, with Pukke coming from behind to beat UJ 24-20 in Potchefstroom, and UCT proving too strong for Wits, who went down 25-5 in their last Varsity Cup match before they drop back down to the Shield next year in an automatic relegation.
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 – who well and truly bossed this game – inspired the home team as they handed Tuks their third consecutive defeat to knock them out of the tournament.
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 Shield Final, whilst Wits will be automatically replaced by the Shield champions.
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 seasons of Varsity Cup action.
In the Varsity Young Guns match Pukke drew 26-26 with Shimlas in a tense match which saw the Bloemfontein side squeeze into the semifinals and end Pukke’s campaign.
In the Varsity Shield there were wins for Fort Hare and UKZN who are the only two teams still in the running to face defending champions CUT in the final this season.
Fort Hare ran riot against UWC in Bellville, scoring seven tries as they recorded a big 51-29 win. While UKZN also had a big win, running in eight tries on their way to a resounding 55-24 victory over TUT in Pretoria.
All the Cup scores and scorers:
Shimlas 34-33 NMMU
Tries: Claassen, Du Toit 2, Dolo, Prinsloo
Cons: Prinsloo 3
Tries: Bernardt, Hauptfleisch, Ferreira 2
Cons: Hauptfleisch 2, Buys
Pens: Hauptfleisch 2
Yellow cards: Marcel Groenewald (NMMU, 39 mins – foul play), Oupa Mohoje (Shimlas, 40 mins – dangerous tackle), Martin Ferreira (NMMU, 47 mins – foul play), Armandt Koster (Shimlas, 78 mins – professional foul).
Maties 41-24 Tukkies
Tries: Du Preez, Barry 2, Caleb Smith, Chris Smith
Cons: Du Preez 4
Pen: Du Preez
Tries: Short, Matthews, Beerwinkel
Cons: Schoeman 3
Yellow card: Mark Hodgkiss (Maties, 38 mins – foul play)
Pukke 24-20 UJ
Tries: De Wet, Maritz, Smith
Cons: Engelbrecht 3
Tries: Petersson, Haznar
Cons: Schmidt 2
Pens: Schmidt 2
Wits 5-25 UCT
Tries: Stewart, Xoli, Sauls, McDonald, Nel