Log-leaders FNB NWU-Pukke were forced to work hard for their 16-8 victory over winless FNB Wits in a wet Potchefstroom on Monday.
The hard-fought win sees NWU-Pukke maintain their spot at the top of the standings, whilst Wits’ losing streak extended to 13 games after another spirited defeat which leaves them rooted to the bottom of the table.
After a scrappy start to the game which saw possession change hands often, Wits had the first real opportunity but could not capitalise from the attacking line-out as the NWU-Pukke forwards stood firm.
The home side regrouped as rain began to fall ten minutes into the match and wing Luther Obi came within inches of scoring in the corner, but the TMO ruled that it had been a double movement as he tried to ground the ball over the tryline.
The teams went into the first strategy break still deadlocked at 0-0, although NWU-Pukke had the better of both territory and possession in the opening 20 minutes.
The home side won a tighthead just after the break thanks to a massive shove and they threw everything at the visitors, with hooker Jacques Vermaak eventually forcing his way over for the opening try to put them 8-0 up.
Wits were struck a further blow shortly afterwards when inside centre Brent Crossley was shown a yellow card for a dangerous tackle, but they did not miss him too much as they spent the next ten minutes in the NWU-Pukke 22.
Despite camping on the opposition tryline the visitors could not find a way through and NWU-Pukke took their 8-0 lead into the half-time break.
The hosts made a determined start to the second half as they looked to build on their lead, with Obi and fullback Sylvian Mahuza making a few telling runs.
Wits spent some more quality time in the NWU-Pukke 22, but could not find the finishing touch as the home team’s defence held up well.
NWU-Pukke got their second try just after the second strategy break when flank Philip de Wet combined with No.8 Rhyk Welgemoed to score under the poles, but Wits responded immediately as fullback Ruhan Nel pounced to cut the home side’s lead to 16-8.
That set up a tense final 15 minutes, with both teams giving it everything with the game in the balance, but NWU-Pukke were able to hold on for a tough win in the end.
For FNB NWU-Pukke:
Tries: Vermaak, De Wet
Cons: Engelbrecht 2
For FNB Wits:
Yellow Card: Brent Crossley (Dangerous tackle, 27 mins)
FNB NWU-Pukke: 15 Sylvain Mahuza, 14 Edmar Marais, 13 Hoffman Maritz, 12 Adriaan Engelbrecht, 11 Luther Obi, 10 Johnny Welthagen, 9 Tiaan Dorfling (captain), 8 Rhyk Welgemoed, 7 Robey Labuschagne, 6 Philip de Wet, 5 Francois Robbertse, 4 Peet van der Walt, 3 Lhlanhla Ngcamu, 2 Jacques Vermaak, 1 Mashudu Mafela.
Replacements: 16 Marius Fourie, 17 Johan Smith, 18 Daniel Jordaan, 19 Jaco Buys, 20 Dillon Smit, 21 Rhyno Smith, 22 Lucian Cupido, 23 Elardus Venter.
FNB Wits: 15 Ruhan Nel, 14 Mandla Dube, 13 Divan Ferguson, 12 Brent Crossley, 11 Riaan Arends, 10 Ashlon Davids, 9 Mathew Torrance, 8 Jason Fraser, 7 Senna Esterhuizen, 6 J.P. Jonck, 5 Rendani Ramovha, 4 Devin Montgomery (captain), 3 Gideon Muller, 2 Ashley Kohler, 1 Hannes Ludick.
Replacements: 16 James Marx, 17 Kyle Wood, 18 Conor Brockschmidt, 19 Peter van Biljon, 20 Joshua Jarvis, 21 Ish Nkolo, 22 Joshua Jarvis, 23 Ferdinand Kelly.
Referees: Jaco Kotze, Jaco Pretorius
Assistant referees: Local
TMO: Johan Greeff