FNB UFS-Shimlas beat FNB NMMU 34-33 in Bloemfontein, but it was not enough to prevent the visitors from booking their place in the 2014 FNB Varsity Cup presented by Steinhoff International semifinals.
A try from replacement hooker Martin Ferreira in the last minute saw the Eastern Cape side secure two bonus points which ended UFS-Shimlas’ semifinal hopes in dramatic fashion.
The Madibaz made a determined start to the match, taking the ball through multiple phases deep in opposition territory, and it eventually resulted in centre Michael Bernardt getting over for the opening try after a good chip kick from scrumhalf Daniel Acker.
Flyhalf Gavin Hauptfleisch the conversion and added a penalty soon afterwards to give the visitors a handy 10-0 lead as UFS-Shimlas found themselves chasing the game from the start.
The home side needed a response and they got one straight away as their first foray into NMMU’s 22-metre area saw lock Neil Claassen crash over for a try from a driving maul.
They kept the pressure on as NMMU were forced to defend, and it was not long before hooker Jacques du Toit crashed over for their second try from another maul.
Flyhalf Gouws Prinsloo slotted the touchline conversion and UFS-Shimlas went into the first strategy break with a 13-10 lead, but they did not have it for long as NMMU hit back with a superb individual effort from Hauptfleisch who collected his own chip to score and then converted it as well.
Hauptfleisch added another penalty, but it was UFS-Shimlas who had the lead at half-time as Du Toit broke a tackle in the 22 to touch down with Prinsloo adding the conversion to put them ahead by 21-20.
NMMU had to play the first ten minutes of the second half with just 14 men with flank Marcel Groenewald in the sin bin, but the playing field was levelled when Oupa Mohoje joined him after a high tackle on Hauptfleisch.
The visitors were reduced to 13 when replacement hooker Ferreira saw yellow for use of the boot on the shoulder of a UFS-Shimlas player at the bottom of a ruck and the hosts swung it wide immediately as they looked to take advantage.
It did not take them long to get the bonus point try as wing Maphuta Dolo stretched to score in the corner, with Prinsloo’s conversion giving them a handy buffer at 29-20.
The Madibaz were right back in it when Ferreira crashed over in the corner after a driving maul, setting up a tense final 20 minutes with the game in the balance.
UFS-Shimlas gave themselves some breathing room when Prinsloo raced through a gap to score their fifth try, but they would end the match heartbroken as Ferreira’s late try – as villain turned hero – saw the Madibaz through to the play-offs.
For FNB UFS-Shimlas:
Tries: Claassen, Du Toit 2, Dolo, Prinsloo
Cons: Prinsloo 3
For FNB NMMU Madibaz:
Tries: Bernardt, Hauptfleisch, Ferreira 2
Cons: Hauptfleisch 2, Buys
Pens: Hauptfleisch 2
Yellow cards: Marcel Groenewald (NMMU, 39 mins – foul play), Oupa Mohoje (UFS-Shimlas, 40 mins – dangerous tackle), Martin Ferreira (NMMU, 47 mins – foul play), Armandt Koster (UFS-Shimlas, 78 mins – professional foul).
FNB UFS-Shimlas: 15 Ludwig Erasmus, 14 Maphuta Dolo, 13 Tertius Kruger, 12 Joubert Engelbrecht (captain), 11 Sethu Tom, 10 Gouws Prinsloo, 9 Kevin Luiters, 8 Gerhard Olivier, 7 Oupa Mohoje, 6 Tienie Burger, 5 Neil Claassen, 4 Armandt Koster, 3 Justin Pappin, 2 Jacques du Toit, 1 Franco van der Merwe.
Replacements: 16 Markus Odendaal, 17 Luan de Bruin, 18 Johan van der Hoogt, 19 Neill Jordaan, 20 Kay-Kay Hlongwane, 21 Francois du Toit, 22 Divandre Strydom, 23 Gideon Bruwer.
FNB NMMU Madibaz: 15 Jarryd Buys, 14 Tythan Adams, 13 Michael Bernardt, 12 Andile Jho, 11 Yamkela Ngam, 10 Gavin Hauptfleisch, 9 Daniel Acker, 8 Timothy Agaba, 7 Marcel Groenewald, 6 Christopher Cloete, 5 Cameron Lindsay, 4 Stefan Willemse, 3 Dexter Fahey, 2 Jody Reyneke, 1 Roy Godfrey (captain).
Replacements: 16 Martin Ferreira, 17 Abongile Mnyaka, 18 Louis Fourie, 19 Wade Elliot, 20 Kayle van Zyl, 21 Devon Lailvaux , 22 Sinakho Mafu, 23 Simon Kerrod.
Referees: Cwengile Jadezweni, Marius van der Westhuizen