FNB UCT and FNB NWU-Pukke played to a dramatic 29-29 draw in their Varsity Cup, Round Five clash at the Green Mile in Cape Town on Monday.
The visitors, winless in Cape Town since the 2009 semifinals, scored a converted try in the final act of play; flyhalf Gerhard Nortier scoring and then converting his own try after his team had looked beaten at 13-29 down with just under ten minutes remaining.
Pukke, however, showed great courage in rallying back to score two converted tries and, in the process, they made life that much harder for the defending champion Ikey Tigers in terms of semifinal qualification.
Before this match, the Ikeys needed to win their remaining three matches to sneak into the semifinals – this draw, despite the four-try bonus point, gave them just three points from the game which could prove costly ahead of their final two league matches.
The match started on a very sad note, with both teams observing a minute’s silence beforehand for former UCT and NWU-Pukke winger Dane Johnson who passed away this past weekend after losing his battle with cancer.
Both teams would have been very determined to win it for their former charge and it was the Ikeys who registered the day’s first points shortly after the 10-minute mark.
Giant tighthead prop Francois van Wyk ran a great line off a pass from fullback Dillyn Leyds, the latter popping up on the shoulder of his larger teammate to dash in next to the uprights.
Flyhalf Nick Holton’s conversion made it 8-0, as UCT were making good use of the wind at their backs, and Holton found himself in front of the uprights just two minutes later when Van Wyk gave his second try-scoring pass – this time to his front row colleague Wes Chetty, the experienced campaigner crashing over for his second Varsity Cup try.
Holton’s second conversion made it 16-0 but the visitors started edging their way back into the game – despite playing into a very strong wind – and they were the stronger side after the first strategy break.
One Pukke effort on the Ikeys goalline was referred to the TMO who ruled no try and then a member of the visiting front row was held up right under the home side’s goalposts. Eventually, however, UCT won a penalty on their own line and they were able to boot the ball – thanks to the wind – deep into NWU-Pukke territory.
At that stage UCT had been forced to make 87 tackles to NWU-Pukke’s 43 but with UCT on the attack, it was Pukke’s turn to hold out as they staved off an attacking Ikeys line-out virtually on their goalline.
They quickly got themselves out of trouble and soon found themselves back in UCT’s half, flanker Philip de Wet having the presence of mind to dive over a ruck and dot the ball down for their opening points – once the Television Match Official had been asked for his view.
Unfortunately for Pukke, flyhalf Gerhard Nortier was unable to add the extra points, but way worse was to follow for the visitors when they coughed up possession from the re-start, allowing speedster Mark Winter to dot down for try No.3 after halfbacks Liam Slatem and Holton had both handled.
Holton, who had given the try-scoring pass, kicked the three points and his side went into the break at 24-5 up – but both sides would have been aware of the role of the wind in the second half.
It was Pukke, with the wind at their backs, who started the second half brightly and they were rewarded after five minutes when scrumhalf Tiaan Dorfling found space to dot down. Nortier converted and at 13-24 it was well and truly game on in the second half.
From then on, it was simply a case of whether or not UCT could hold on against the wind and after 63 minutes the tackle statistics had UCT as having made 121 tackles and Pukke 95, which meant that both sides were – wisely – opting to hold onto the ball as opposed to kicking it.
On one such occasion, young Leyds scooted out of his own 22-metre area and ran the length of the field for what seemed the match-winning try – Holton missing the conversion into the wind. But, at 29-13 up after 70 minutes, UCT would have been breathing the easier of the two sides.
But, to their credit, the visitors kept their tails up and went in search of what seemed like a losing bonus point – at first – as captain Joubert Engelbrecht, who scored a hat-trick of tries last week, got over for their third try.
Nortier kicked the slightly angled conversion and then held his nerve with the final act of the game to draw the match – that after UCT had the ball in their hands in the NWU-Pukke 22m area with just thirty seconds remaining on the clock.
NWU-Pukke won a penalty and ran it and even though they turned possession over after the final hooter had sounded, UCT, in turn, lost possession and the visitors went right where Nortier just slipped through a UCT hand to dot down closer to the poles which made his conversion a little bit easier.
For FNB UCT:
Tries: Leyds 2, Chetty, Winter
Cons: Holton 3
For FNB NWU-Pukke:
Tries: De Wet, Dorfling, Engelbrecht, Nortier
Cons: Nortier 3
UCT: 15 Dillyn Leyds, 14 Damian de Allende, 13 Tiger Bax, 12 Adrian Kritzinger, 11 Mark Winter, 10 Nick Holton, 9 Liam Slatem, 8 Greg Mallett, 7 Zandy Macdonald, 6 Ntsolo Setlaba (captain), 5 Levi Odendaal, 4 Graham Knoop, 3 Francois van Wyk, 2 Dayne Jans, 1 Wes Chetty.
Replacements: 16 Matt Page, 17 Adriaan Botha, 18 Brad Bosman, 19 James Kilroe, 20 Nick Farrar, 21 Paul Cohen, 22 Nathan Nel, 23 Mini Bhengu.
NWU-Pukke: 15 Malan van der Merwe, 14 Andrew van Wyk, 13 Ruan Jacobs, 12 Joubert Engelbrecht (captain), 11 Joe Seerane, 10 Gerhard Nortier, 9 Tiaan Dorfling, 8 Juan ‘Spanner’ Pretorius, 7 Ernie Strydom, 6 Philip de Wet, 5 Victor Kruger, 4 Siyanda Ndlovu, 3 John-Roy Jenkinson, 2 JC Oberholzer, 1 Henry Scharneck.
Replacements: 16 Marius Fourie, 17 Martin Dreyer, 18 Lodewyk Uys, 19 Siya Mdaka, 20 Andries Botha, 21 SW Oosthuizen, 22 Terswin Raubenheimer, 23 Zander de Kock.