Gauteng rivals inseparable
Pretoria - Defending champions UP-Tuks were held to an 18-18 draw in their Varsity Cup opener by a spirited UJ side in Pretoria on Monday.
The exciting first half produced five tries – UP-Tuks outscoring UJ by three tries to two – and all 36 points as both teams came out firing.
The second half proved to be a tense and physical war of attrition, with neither side able to deliver the knockout blow and both failing to capitalise of several points-scoring opportunities.
UJ showed no signs of rust early on as they strung together numerous phases and got their reward in the fifth minute as lock David Antonites stretched over to score the opening try, with fullback Marais Schmidt adding the conversion.
Schmidt was yellow carded moments later for a deliberate knock down but 14-man UJ thwarted the immediate danger through a much-needed turnover.
Some naïve play by UJ put them in a precarious position when flyhalf Jaco van der Walt, attempting to run out of his own 22, threw a forward pass.
However, UP-Tuks were blown up in the ensuing scrum and Van der Walt made amends with a booming kick that found touch in the UP-Tuks 22.
Concerted pressure by UP-Tuks finally took its toll and flank Rudolph Smith burrowed over from close quarters to put the hosts on the board. Exciting fullback Warrick Gelant’s conversion was wide, which saw UJ lead 8-5 after the first quarter.
Good backline play almost resulted in a quick second try for UP-Tuks, but the UJ cover defence was able to force left wing Kefentse Mahlo into touch.
UJ made a meal of the line-out and got pushed off the ball at a scrum deep inside their 22, and UP-Tuks capitalised as quick hands led to Gelant crashing over. The No.15 couldn’t convert his own try, but UP-Tuks were 10-8 up.
UJ looked poised to hit back when hard-running centre Harold Vorster – one of the standout players on the night – made a powerful break and flung a long pass out to JR Esterhuizen but the flyer couldn’t hold on to the ball and the opportunity went begging.
In an exciting end to the first half, the lead changed hands twice before the teams finished deadlocked at 18-all at the break. First, UJ captain Jacques Pretorius nearly scored from a quick tap when he stretched for the line in contact.
The scrumhalf was short of the line but the ball was adjudged to have gone backwards and outside centre Robert de Bruyn was on hand to scoop up the ball and dot down for an eight-pointer.
A great chase by Jade Stighling put UJ under pressure from the restart and UP-Tuks struck with centre Rohan Janse van Rensburg running a sublime line and Gelant adding the conversion.
Schmidt had the final say of the half, though, as he slotted a penalty on the stroke of half-time to square the ledger.
Both teams were eager to gain the momentum and take the game by the scruff of the neck by scoring first after the interval. Good runs by Gelant and Vorster thrilled but both proved fruitless.
UJ came within centimetres of scoring through their powerful forwards, only to be held up over the line by some committed UP-Tuks defence.
A knock-on by Van der Walt, a skew line-out throw and another handling error by No.8 Kobus Porter – all inside the attacking 22 – added to UJ’s frustration.
The men in orange continued to dominate territory and possession, setting up camp in the home 22, and after being held up a second time, loosehead Wiseman Kamanga knocked on as he looked to power over the line from a metre out.
It was resolute tackling that saw UP-Tuks finally escape the relentless onslaught and they would no doubt have savoured the timely second strategy break.
Having regrouped, UP-Tuks went on the attack and much like their opponents, squandered a number of opportunities after having done the hard yards.
The tension was palpable as the match entered the final five minutes with the teams still all square.
Van der Walt looked to snatch victory as he lined up an ambitious shot at goal from 61 metres out in the last play of the game and struck it beautifully. However, his kick fell just underneath the crossbar and the game ended in a draw.Scorers:Tuks:
18 - Tries:
R Smith, Gelant, Rohan Janse van Rensburg; Conversion:
18 - Tries:
Antonites, De Bruyn; Conversion:
Schmidt (2); Penalty:
Marais Schmidt (FNB UJ, 10 mins)Teams:Tuks:
15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Jade Stighling, 13 Dries Swanepoel, 12 Rohan Janse Van Rensburg, 11 Kefentse Mahlo, 10 Francois Tredoux, 9 Carlo Engelbrecht, 8 Jono Janse van Rensburg, 7 Rudolph Smith, 6 Roelof Smit, 5 Reniel Hugo (captain), 4 Dennis Visser, 3 Basil Short, 2 Jaco Visagie, 1 Juan Schoeman
Substitutes: 16 Sidney Tobias, 17 Brummer Badenhorst, 18 Jannes Kirsten, 19 Leneve Damens, 20 Emile Temperman, 21 Tian Schoeman, 22 Jacques Rossouw, 23 Andrew Beerwinkel.UJ:
15 Marais Schmidt, 14 JR Esterhuizen, 13 Robert de Bruyn, 12 Harold Vorster, 11 Jacques Nel, 10 Jaco van der Walt, 9 Jacques Pretorius (captain), 8 Kobus Porter, 7 Victor Seketekete, 6 Tiaan MacDonald, 5 David Antonites, 4 Shane Kirkwood, 3 Van Zyl Botha, 2 Francois du Toit, 1 Wiseman Kamanga.Substitutes:
16 Jannes Snyman, 17 Devon Martinus, 18 Jeremy Jordaan, 19 Dylan Peterson, 20 Lukas van Zyl, 21 Juan Kotze, 22 PJ Walters, 23 Ryan Plasket.
Referees: Jaco van Heerden, Ben Crouse
TMO: Johan Greeff