Resolute defense – Mike Morris and Grant Kemp (Photo Carl Fourie).
The University of Cape Town booked their place in the Final of the FNB Varsity Cup, presented by Steinhoff International, for a second time in three years when they beat a game Shimlas outfit 27-21 at Groote Schuur, Cape Town, on Monday.
Playing with a hurricane-strength wind at their backs at the famous Green Mile the FNB Ikey Tigers showed their ability to adapt to any conditions by taking a handy 19-0 lead in the first half.
The Ikeys were brilliant at keeping the ball in hand, both in the first and second halves, while FNB Shimlas never showed enough patience to make use of the conditions.
In the final analyses Ikeys had more than 70 percent of the possession, but it was simply because they were so good at keeping the ball when they got it – retaining it for marathon sessions – while Shimlas coughed it up too easily.
As Shimlas captain Boom Prinsloo said after the game, Ikeys deserved their victory.
But he did manage a: “I am very proud of my players.”
UCT captain Nick Fenton-Wells spoke of his team’s ability to “show composure” in testing conditions.
“This is not our style of game,” he said of a match in which the ball seldom moved further than 10 metres from the breakdown, adding that he felt his team has a realistic shot at winning it this time round.
“I think it is our year,” Fenton-Wells said.
The Shimlas, playing into the hurricane-strength wind, conceded a penalty in the second minute as they failed to carry the ball out their 22. But Matt Rosslee struggled to find the target in the blustery conditions.
However, Marcel Brache opened the scoring three minutes later, with the Ikeys centre coming in at a perfect angle and leaving the visiting defence flat-footed. Rosslee, who gave the try-scoring pass, also added the conversion for a 7-0 lead.
Shimlas then enjoyed a brief period of ball-in-hand play, making it up to the Ikey 22, before a couple of errors handed possession back to the home team. And, under pressure, they conceded a penalty 40 metres out – which Rosslee pushed past the right upright.
But, as was the case with the earlier missed penalty, Shimlas found it hard getting away from their 22 playing into the wind and Ikeys made good use of the opportunity to put Marcello Sampson over on the left wing for the second try. Rosslee failed to add the extras, but at 12-0 the home team were good value for their lead at the end of the first quarter.
Virtually from the restart Ikeys pounced on a Shimlas mistake and lock Levi Odendaal went over in the corner. Referee Ben Crouse, playing TMO in a Varsity Cup initiative, ruled that he knocked the ball on in an attempt to stretch out and place it.
Both teams continued to struggle in the testing conditions and then next real scoring chance came in the 35th minute, but replacement Doug Mallett also pushed the penalty shot wide.
And again, soon after the missed penalty, Ikeys used the territorial advantage – No.8 JJ Gagiano going over after sublime interplay between forwards and backs. Mallett, despite a wobbly old kick, sneaked the ball over the crossbar for two extra points and a 19-0 lead going into the half-time break.
Ikeys came within a metre of a try straight from the second-half restart, but Beast Ndwandwa made a brilliant tackle and Boom Prinsloo stole the ball. But from the resulting line-out Ikeys kept the ball through the hands in sublime fashion and Therlow Pietersen went over for the fourth try in the right-hand corner. The conversion was wide, but at 24-0 in left Shimlas with a huge mountain to climb.
The visitors, realising they needed to score next, launched a series of powerful forward rushes on the Ikeys line – with replacement hooker PW van Vuuren going over as the Tigers’ defensive lines became more and more brittle with each rush. Franna du Toit added the conversion and the Shimlas were on the board – 7-24.
However, from the restart Shimlas failed to control the ball and once Ikeys had their hands on it they moved up the field swiftly, earning a penalty just to the right of the upright. Rosslee kept his composure and stretched his team’s lead to 27-7.
Ikeys showed they were far more adept at keeping the ball in hand into the teeth of a fierce wind and this frustrated Shimlas no end, with the visitors now giving away a string of penalties that allowed the home team to work their way upfield and into the Shimlas half.
With just under 15 minutes left on the clock Shimlas finally got some reward for their endeavours, as they finally showed some patience, and when the Tigers ran out of defenders out wide right wing Jamba Ulengo utilised the space and strolled over for a well-worked try. Du Toit’s conversion made it 14-27 and left the Shimlas still needing two converted tries.
The visitors played with renewed vigour, but their handling was still not as accurate and secure as that of the Tigers. And once the Ikeys had control of the ball it seemed like ages that the Shimlas were forced into a defence role, with their patience always stretched to the limit.
With time officially up hard-working Shimlas No.8 Boom Prinsloo went over for a consolation try – a score that is reward for his own efforts, rather than having any material affect on the outcome of the match.
While the final six-point margin (27-21) might suggest Shimlas were in with a shout, they were simply outplayed by a more astute Tigers outfit.
For FNB UCT:
Tries: Brache, Sampson, Gagiano, Pietersen
Cons: Rosslee, Mallett
For FNB Shimlas:
Tries: Van Vuuren, Ulengo, Prinsloo
Cons: Du Toit 3
UCT: 15 Therlow Pietersen, 14 Pete Haw, 13 Marcel Brache, 12 Sean van Tonder, 11 Marcello Sampson, 10 Matt Rosslee, 9 Stu Commins (vice-captain), 8 JJ Gagiano, 7 Mike Morris, 6 Nick Fenton-Wells (captain), 5 Donovan Armand, 4 Levi Odendaal, 3 Grant Kemp, 2 Mark Goosen, 1 Ash Wells.
Replacements: 16 Matt Page, 17 Chris Heiberg, 18 Mike Ledwidge, 19 Sam Peter, 20 Nic Groom, 21 Douglas Mallett, 22 Mark Esterhuizen, 23 Wesley Chetty.
Shimlas: 15 George Whitehead, 14 Jamba Ulengo, 13 Earl Snyman, 12 Wayne Stevens (captain), 11 Beast Ndwandwa, 10 Franna du Toit, 9 Gerrie Odendaal, 8 Boom Prinsloo, 7 Sybrand Mostert, 6 Gerrit Theron, 5 Wilken Heyns, 4 Joubert Horn, 3 Ian Potgieter, 2 Hans Grobler, 1 Charles Marais.
Replacements: 16 PW van Vuuren, 17 Vaatjie Koorsen, 18 Lebo Zietsman, 19 Erik le Roux, 20 Marlin Ruiters, 21 Jaco Colyn, 22 Divandré Strydom, 23 Johnny Harris.
Referee: Ben Crouse