Going into the last round of the competition, Tuks were already in a bad position. They had lost their two previous games, which were at home, and after beginning the season at the top of the log had a must-win encounter against Maties (Stellenbosch University) last Monday. Tuks will not progress to the semi-finals of the tournament as they were defeated by their fellow finalists from last year, Maties, and have crashed out of the competition.
After struggling to a draw in their first match of the season against University of Johannesburg (UJ), Tuks seemed to get into their stride and won three games in a row before their season turned. Tuks appeared to be strong mid-season and were dominating the standingss. However, they failed to perform in their last three matches.
Tuks lost back-to-back home games to Pukke (North-West University) and Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) respectively. Both of these games were in very wet conditions and Tuks seemed to struggle to get into their rhythm because of the conditions.
In their final match against Maties, Tuks began the game on a positive note, going into the break with a 26-0 lead. In the second half Tuks let their defence slip and allowed Maties to fight back and gain the victory. These sides have a long history, especially since Tuks have beaten Maties in the last two finals of the Varsity Cup. The loss against Maties and the fact that Tuks are out of the competition came as a big blow to Tuks.
The other seventh round matches of the Varsity Cup saw NMMU get two bonus points and book their spot in the semi-finals despite losing to Shimlas (University of the Free State). Ikeys (University of Cape Town) beat bottom of the log Wits to secure their place in the semi-finals and Pukke, who were behind for most of the game, recorded a comeback victory against UJ. Wits, who were winless this season, have automatically been relegated to the Varsity Shield and will be replaced by the winners of the competition. UJ will play a promotion/relegation match against the runners-up in the Varsity Shield.
Tuks started the season with a new coach and many new players and now have to look to rebuild for the remaining tournaments: the Carlton Cup, USSA and Predator series this year, as well as next year’s Varsity Cup.
Tuks coach Pote Human told Perdeby that their failure to qualify was unfortunate. He further said, “We had two games in terrible conditions that we couldn’t adapt to.” With regard to the last game he said that Tuks started the game well against Maties but that they came back in the second half and they deserve to be in the semi-finals.
The semi-finals taking place are between table-toppers Pukke who will host NMMU, and Ikeys who will host Maties. All four teams are competing for a place in the final, which will be played on 7 April. The venue is still to be confirmed as it is dependent on the finalists and their standings on the table.
Watch the final to see the new champions crowned.
Photo: Brad Donald