Plucky Pukke breaks Tuks hearts
FNB NWU-Pukke broke FNB UP-Tuks hearts when they defeated the home side 29-28 in a tense battle to secure their spot in the FNB Varsity Cup presented by Steinhoff International final.
Tuks outscored their opponents five tries to four but Johnny Welthagen, who made headlines for all the wrong reasons in the 2014 final, scored a great individual try with two minutes remaining to hand Pukke their spot in their second consecutive final.
but it was the boot of Rhyno Smith which proved to be the difference between the sides which secured Pukke their second consecutive final.
The match got off to a frantic start as both teams went in search of early points but it would be Tuks who would have much of the possession and territory advantage. Pukke's task was made harder when their captain Jeandre Rudolph was sent to the bin in the eighth minute.
The home side took full advantage of the extra man when they set a rolling maul which allowed captain Wiaan Liebenberg to dot the ball down but their joy was short lived as Marno Redelinghuys ran a superb line form a set-play to score under the uprights. Rhyno Smith made no mistake with the conversion to hand Pukke the lead after 16 minutes.
Pukke would extend their lead on the stroke of the first Strategy Break when Smith popped over a penalty from in front of the poles. Tuks emerged stronger after the break and got their reward when John Jackson crashed over the line from close range. Stander failed to add the extra points as the scores remained level at 10-all.
Smith would add another two points to Pukke's total when he slotted another penalty in the 26th minute. A dominant Pukke scrum would find reward in the 28th minute when Rudolph redeemed himself for his earlier yellow card to extend the visitors' lead to seven points. The lead became nine just before halftime when Smith slotted his third penalty of the night as Pukke closed out the half in the ascendency.
The visitors picked up where they left off and were putting Tuks under all sorts of pressure. However, Daniel Kriel would intercept a pass and ran all of 80 metres to reduce Pukke's lead. Stander would finally slot a conversion to reduce the deficit to a solitary point after 46 minutes.
Pukke piled the pressure onto their hosts and spent majority of the half inside Tuks' 22. Their pressure would bare fruit in the 57th minute when Dillon Smit cantered over unopposed after excellent work from the forwards to extend the lead to six points at the second Strategy Break.
Pukke continued to pile on the pressure before, completely against the run-of-play, Jermaine Kleinsmith showed a clean pair of heels to race down the left touchline and from Tuks' 22 to within centimetres of Pukke's try-line. The ball was quickly recycled and found the hands of Clyde Davids who displayed a nifty side step before stretching over the line to reduce the deficit to just one point with 15 minutes left in the match.
That try sparked Tuks into life as they threw the ball around with confidence. The ball found Davids who broke through a tackle before releasing a pop-pass to Riaan Britz who sprinted down the right touchline to dive in the corner as Tuks took the lead for the first time since early in the first half.
The drama would continue to the bitter end when Johnny Welthagen scored an absolutely majestic individual try by running around and through the Tuks defence to hand Pukke a slender one-point lead with two minutes remaining in the match. They managed to hold onto that lead to claim a thrilling victory.
FNB Player that Rocks: Marno Redelinghuys
For FNB UP-Tuks:
Tries: Liebenberg, Jackson, Kriel, Davids, Britz
For FNB NWU-Pukke:
Tries: Redelinghuys, Rudolph, Smit, Welthagen
Pens: Smith 3
Yellow Card: Jeandre Rudolph (NWU-Pukke, 8 - repeated infringements, hands in the ruck)
FNB UP-Tuks: 15 Riaan Britz, 14 Damian van Wyk, 13 Daniel Kriel, 12 John Jackson, 11 Jermaine Kleinsmith, 10 Joshua Stander, 9 André Warner, 8 Clyde Davids, 7 Rudolph Smith, 6 Wiaan Liebenberg (captain), 5 Reniel Hugo, 4 Irne Herbst, 3 Andrew Beerwinkel, 2 Jan Enslin, 1 Justin Forwood.
Replacements: 16 Jan Van der Merwe, 17 Nqobisizwe Mxoli, 18 Dennis Visser, 19 Hein Viljoen, 20 Emile Temperman, 21 Dewald Human, 22 Adrian Maebane, 23 Dayan van der Westhuizen.
FNB NWU-Pukke: 15 Rhyno Smith, 14 Dalen Goliath, 13 Rowayne Beukman, 12 Johan Deysel, 11 Dillon Smit, 10 Johnny Welthagen, 9 Malherbe Swart, 8 Jeandre Rudolph (captain), 7 Marno Redelinghuys, 6 Armandt Liebenberg, 5 Walt Steenkamp, 4 Loftus Morrison, 3 John-Roy Jenkinson, 2 Wian Fourie, 1 Johan Smith.
Replacements: 16 Wilmar Arnoldi, 17 Mogau Mabokela, 18 Daniel Jordaan, 19 Moletsi Bouwer, 20 Johannes Briers, 21 Marnus Tack, 22 Kurshwill Williams, 23 Cayle Denner.
Referees: Rodney Boneparte, Francois Pretorius
Assistant referees: Local
TMO: Willie Vos