FNB NWU-Pukke secured a first-ever first-place finish in the FNB Varsity Cup presented by Steinhoff International, thanks to a hard-fought 24-20 victory over a determined FNB UJ team in Potchefstroom on Monday.
Although FNB NWU-Pukke had already secured a play-off spot they were still looking for a victory against FNB UJ who had picked up just one win before tonight’s last round of league fixtures and were already set for a first-ever promotion/relegation match in this competition (no matter the result of this fixture).
Pukke were staring down the barrel deep into the second half having scored no points to UJ’s 12 – until they came alive, scoring three quick tries with five minutes to go in the second half.
UJ were not done though as they scored late to make it a 24-20 game but it could easily have gone the other way as UJ laid siege on the Pukke line for five minutes into injury-time only to finish inches short.
The match started out at a frenetic pace and it was UJ who were first on the board as they converted a penalty into a 2-0 lead with a kick at poles from Marais Schmidt early in the half.
NWU-Pukke’s opportunities started to come thick and fast as the half progressed but silly mistakes and handling errors were costing them, partly because UJ were not giving them an inch in defence.
UJ took advantage of Pukke’s missed opportunities to score the first try of the bruising encounter as Dylan Petersson burst over the line after some good work from the Jo’burg forwards. Schmidt was once again on hand to kick the extras and give UJ a healthy 10-0 lead going into the second quarter, the teams eventually going into half-time with the visitors 10-0 ahead.
The game continued to grind out in the second half as Schmidt was able to bump the lead out to 12 points for UJ with another penalty, the boys from Potch still unable to get their name on the scoresheet.
Pukke finally hit back through Phillip de Wet who managed to breach the UJ tryline with time starting to run out, Adriaan Englebrecht was able to add the conversion to make it a tight 12-8 ball-game with 20 minutes left on the clock.
Hoffman Maritz took things into his own hands for the Pukke handing them the lead with a piece of individual brilliance, UJ’s fight looking to be over just 10 minutes too soon as Engelbrecht added the three points for a conversion to make it 16-12 to the home team.
NWU-Pukke added another try soon after to turn around their slow start as Men in Orange were no longer able to keep up their solid defence. Joe Smith was on hand to give the home team their third try with Engelbrecht converting it to make the game safe at 24-12… or so they thought…
A late surge from UJ saw Michael Haznar sneak over in the corner setting up a tough kick for Schmidt from the touchline just before the final whistle. Schmidt held his nerve to strike a beauty over the crossbar but it was not enough as the game finished 24-20 in Pukke’s favour.
For FNB NWU-Pukke:
Tries: De Wet, Maritz, Smith
Cons: Engelbrecht 3
For FNB UJ:
Tries: Petersson, Haznar
Cons: Schmidt 2
Pens: Schmidt 2
FNB NWU-Pukke: 15 Ryno Smith, 14 Edmar Marais, 13 Hoffman Maritz, 12 Adriaan Engelbrecht, 11 Luther Obi, 10 Johnny Welthagen, 9 Tiaan Dorfling (captain), 8 Juan Language, 7 Henro Swart, 6 Rhyk Welgemoed, 5 Peet van der Walt, 4 Danie Jordaan, 3 Nhlanhla Ngcamu, 2 Marius Fourie, 1 Mashudu Mafela.
Replacements: 16 Akker van der Merwe, 17 Johan Smith, 18 Robey Labuschagne, 19 Philip de Wet, 20 Dillon Smit, 21 Akhona Nela, 22 Lucien Cupido, Elardus Venter.
FNB UJ: 15 Juan Kotze, 14 PJ Walters, 13 Jacques Nel, 12 Harold Vorster, 11 Michael Haznar, 10 Marais Schmidt, 9 Viaan van der Watt, 8 Dylan Petersson, 7 Victor Sekekete, 6 Kobus Porter (captain), 5 David Antonites, 4 Shane Kirkwood, 3 Van Zyl Botha, 2 Jannes Snyman, 1 Devon Martinus.
Replacements: 16 Qinisile Siphatho, 17 Wiseman Kamanga, 18 Fabian Booysen, 19 JP Swanepoel, 20 Jacque Pretorius, 21 Jaco van der Walt, 22 Pieter Morton, 23 Hendrik Bredenkamp.
Referees: Gerrie de Bruin, Eduan Nel