Astonishing Ikeys win Varsity Cup

At 33-15, Pukke had the 2014 Varsity Cup sewn up. At 33-31, all they had to do was kick the ball out. But they didn’t, and the never say die Ikeys pounced to burgle the trophy!

UCT scored 3 tries in the last 5 minutes to beat Pukke 39-33 in Potchefstroom and claim their second Varsity Cup title.

The home side looked to have their first-ever title wrapped up with a 33-15 lead heading into the final stages of a pulsating final, but the Ikeys refused to give in and somehow found a way to break Pukke hearts.

Tries from Michael Botha, Dean Grant and Nathan Nel saw the Cape side stage one of the great comebacks in sport to leave the capacity crowd at the Fanie du Toit Sports Grounds stunned.

The visitors got off to a flying start as a flowing backline move saw outside centre Huw Jones hit a gap out wide and surge over for the opening try to put them 5-0 up, with flyhalf Dean Grant’s conversion attempt hitting the upright.

That silenced the crowd in Potchefstroom but they did not have to wait long to find their voice as a series of strong driving mauls from Pukke put them right on the Ikeys’ tryline.

UCT soaked up the pressure well and forced a knock-on, but Pukke were back in the Ikey 22 soon enough and rewarded for their dominance when a well-timed pass from captain Tiaan Dorfling put Rhyk Welgemoed through a gap and over the tryline.

Pukke had all of the momentum and they increased their lead shortly afterwards as good hands down the backline saw left wing Luther Obi score in the corner. That gave them a 13-5 advantage at the first strategy break after an intense opening 20 minutes which saw flashes of brilliance from both teams.

A great kick from Grant put UCT on the attack, and although Pukke managed to hold them out, they suffered a major blow when captain Dorfling was stretchered off with an injury.

It was end-to-end stuff as Ikeys flank Jason Klaasen won a crucial turnover on the 22 after a jinking run from Sylvian Mahuza, and the counter attack saw wing Richard Stewart score in the corner after fullback Ross Jones-Davies had made good ground up the middle of the field.

Grant could not land the conversion that would have levelled the scores, but UCT were right back in the game at 13-10.

The home side thought they had scored just before half-time when replacement scrumhalf Dillon Smit raced away after UCT had coughed the ball up on attack, but joy turned to misery for the home crowd when the TMO controversially ruled that Pukke centre Johan Deysel had committed a reckless tackle. Replays certainly seemed to suggest that it was accidental, but the midfielder was issued a yellow card in what was a double blow to the home side.

The Ikeys looked to have struck on the stroke of half-time, but a desperate tackle from Pukke flyhalf Johnny Welthagen saved the day for his team, who went into the break with a slender 13-10 lead.

Pukke made a determined start to the second half and hammered away at the UCT defence with a series of strong drives before hooker Armand van der Merwe powered his way over from close range.

That gave them an 8 point buffer, but they were reduced to 14 men once again soon afterwards when tighthead prop Nhlanhla Ngcamu was shown yellow for a high tackle on Liam Slatem.

Smit slotted a penalty to take Pukke to a 20-10 lead.

UCT needed to get back into the game and they did – via a driving maul with the hard-working Klaasen crashing over to cut the deficit 5 points at the second strategy break.

UCT were cut down to 14 men after a cynical infringement from wing Lihleli Xoli on their tryline. Van der Merwe was denied a try by the TMO because of double movement, but Pukke did not let that fluster them, marching straight back into the UCT 22 where Smit was able to force his way over for the fourth try which took their lead to 28-15.

Big lock Francois Robbertse added another try and it looked as though Pukke had put the game beyond the Ikeys, but the Cape side refused to say die and they were rewarded in the most dramatic style.

Grant managed to convert tries from himself and Botha before Nel broke free in extra time to plunge a dagger into Pukke hearts and send his teammates into ecstacy. It was truly some of the greatest sporting theatre that you will ever see!

The scorers:

For Pukke:

Tries: Welgemoed, Obi, Van der Merwe, Smit, Robbertse

Cons: Dorfling, Smit

Pen: Smit

For UCT:

Tries: Jones, Stewart, Klaasen, Botha, Grant, Nel

Cons: Grant 3

Yellow cards: Johan Deysel (Pukke, 37 mins – Dangerous tackle), Nhlanhla Ngcamu (Pukke, 51 mins – Dangerous tackle) Lihleli Xoli (UCT, 62 mins – Professional foul)

 

In the curtain raiser, UJ secured a 42-8 victory over UKZN in the promotion/relegation play-off and thus remain in the Varsity Cup next season.

UJ: Tries: Oosthuizen 2, Walters, Kotze, Peterson, Kamanga; Conversions: Schmidt (4)

UKZN: Try: Ngcungama; Conversion: Campbell

Yellow cards: Devon Martinus (UJ, 19 mins – Foul play), Gavin Nyawata (UKZN, 61 mins – Repeated infringements)