KEVIN VAN DER LIST
Tuks beat FNB Maties, their arch-rivals and three-time Varsity Cup champions, 29-21 in front of a crowd of about 15 000 people at the TuksRugby Stadium on 9 April. The two teams delivered a tightly contested game, but it was Tuks who delivered the goods to win their first Varsity Cup title in five years of Varsity Cup rugby. After the game, Tuks scrum half Lohan Jacobs said that the team is thrilled to have finally won the trophy. “We are very happy for the privilege to have played at Tuks. We worked very hard in the pre-season and we’re very thankful to [Nollis Marais] for leading us all the way.” The men in the Tuks jerseys were keen to show their intent early on in the game. It took four minutes for outside centre Jerome Pretorius to cross the Maties try-line to put Tuks in the lead at 5-0. The conversion attempt by Wesley Dunlop was squandered and was probably Dunlop’s worst kick of the season, with the ball going hopelessly wide of the upright. Dunlop, who had an 89% success rate before this attempt at goal, made it his last miss of the game. Tuks controlled much of the possession and territory for the first quarter of the game. Maties were slow to get themselves into the game and when they were in Tuks’s territory, they were unable to register any points. After 17 minutes, Tuks had 64% of the possession. Maties slowly but surely started to get their game together, testing Tuks’s resolute defence just before the start of the first strategy break. Maties came back a different side after the first strategic break. They immediately got themselves onto the score board, courtesy of some individual brilliance by try scorer Andre Smith. The full back chipped the ball over the Tuks defence, gathered it and went over the try-line for his sixth Varsity Cup try. The try was converted, putting the visitors in the lead for the first time in the game at 8-5. Tuks would have been concerned trailing the game and making errors at the set pieces. They were struggling at the scrums and were losing more of their own line-outs than usual. This usual starting point of attack for Tuks instead gave Maties opportunities to get their hands on the ball. After 30 minutes, Tuks had not taken three kickable shots at goal but instead opted for the line-out option, despite Tuks operating below par in the line-outs. However, they were still able to go onto the offensive and pressurise the Maties defensive lines. Basil Short scored Tuks’s second try and his first Varsity Cup try with his first touch of the ball after replacing Grant Kemp seconds earlier. Short scored the home team’s second try during the 34th minute after Lohan Jocobs skilfully sucked in the defence and offloaded to Short. Tuks reclaimed the lead with this try, taking the score to 13-8. The score was however tied just before the end of the half when Maties lock Hugo Klopper hauled in a try for his side. The half-time score was tied at 13-13. The second half saw Tuks stamp their mark on the game. They started the half with a lot more energy and purpose. Lohan Jacobs got his team off to a flyer in the second half. The scrum half scored to take his team to a comfortable 21-13 lead. Although Tuks were superior on the score board by the 45th minute, they had lost five of their own line-outs compared to Maties’s one. Maties were unable to turn this defect in Tuks’s game into points. Maties had their work cut out for them in the second half and they looked to have their backs up against the wall when Tuks hauled in yet another try during the 65th minute. Clayton Blommetjies had a hand in Franco Mostert’s try. Blommetjies once again showed his brilliance as he has done all season by collecting an up and under, almost making the line himself but handing off to Mostert in the nick of time for Tuks’s fourth and final try. The visitors’ chances at winning their fourth title looked all but over. Maties didn’t score a single point in regulation time of the second half. However, they did manage to score a consolation try during the 81st minute from the hands of Hein van der Merwe.