UCT, UJ maintain winning ways
Johannesburg - FNB UCT and FNB UJ are still unbeaten after four rounds of 2011 Varsity Cup action, with just one change on the log this week - at the bottom of the standings - as FNB Pukke finally scored their first league point of the season.
Round Four was rather uneventful when compared to the previous weeks' action - as all the home sides recorded victories, including FNB Shimlas over the dangerous FNB Tuks.
The University of Johannesburg (UJ) recorded a hard fought 20-16 Varsity Cup victory over archrivals NWU-Pukke in an action-packed night's rugby at the UJ Stadium.
Although the visitors were ahead in the try-scoring column a sublime goalkicking display by former Pukke pivot Theuns 'Worsie' Kotze ensured that UJ finished the fourth round without having conceded a loss.
Pukke - under the guidance of stand-in coach Hannes Esterhuizen - showed great improvement from their previous performances and will not go home empty-handed thanks to their bonus point for losing by seven point or less.
The Men from Potchefstroom - who have now moved ahead of FNB NMMU on the log, on points' difference only - controlled most of the match in the first half and will be disappointed that they let the local favourites in for a try just before the break.
As much as they struggled in the first half, once they smelled blood UJ were playing superbly with Kotze making the visitors pay for every mistake they made in kickable range.
The Ikeys also continued on their unbeaten ways, beating the FNB TUT Vikings 45-16, despite losing flanker Nizaam Carr to a red card in the second half - that after the SA Under-20 ace was yellow carded in both halves in Cape Town.
Carr's first card came as the result of a dangerous tackle, whilst his second sin-binning - which resulted in a full red from referee Mlungiseli Mdashe - came after a technical infringement.
The home side, however, kept calm and, after a yellow card to TUT lock Emile Verster, they added three more tries in the second half - building on their 26-7 half-time lead in the day's first match.
TUT flyhalf Ruan Boshoff scored all his team's points, but they had no answer to the Ikeys who were, once again, superbly led by flanker Nick Fenton-Wells.
UCT flyhalf Demetri Catrakilis - the leading points-scorer in the tournament - was in the points again, slotting four conversions and four penalties for a match-haul of 20 points.
The Ikeys' tries were scored by centre Therlow Pietersen, fullback Ricky Rijs and replacements Fransie van Wyk, Pallo Manuel and Nick Holton.
UCT's Western Cape rivals, FNB Maties, warmed up for next Monday's all-Cape derby with a convincing 49-17 win over FNB NMMU at the Danie Craven Stadium.
The defending champions ran in seven tries to two, with right-wing Ryan Nell grabbing a try double.
The home side - back in Coetzenburg after two weeks away - led by 23-10 at half-time in a wind which coach Chean Roux described as one of the strongest ever in Stellenbosch.
Meanwhile, in the evening's second televised match, Shimlas bounced back from last week's away loss to UJ by claiming a 20-15 win over Tuks in Bloemfontein.
A late Jurgen Visser penalty saw the visitors grab a losing bonus point - which could come in handy towards the end of the season - and it showed just how tight things are at the top of the 2011 Varsity Cup log.
After four matches, UCT top the standings with 19 points, followed by UJ (17), the Maties (15), Tuks (12), Shimlas (nine), TUT (five), Pukke (1) and NMMU (1).
Shimlas' win over Tuks has kept their semifinal hopes alive, but - of course - all eyes will be on Cape Town next week when UCT host the Maties at the Green Mile in a repeat of the 2008 and 2010 Varsity Cup Finals.
Meanwhile, in Varsity Shield action Monday evening, FNB Wits claimed a 22-13 home win over FNB Fort Hare, whilst FNB UWC grabbed a 24-15 away win over FNB UKZN.