UJ edge out brave Madibaz
Port Elizabeth - FNB UJ survived a furious late onslaught from FNB NMMU, before eventually completing a 21-16 FNB Varsity Cup presented by Steinhoff International win in Port Elizabeth on Monday afternoon.
The Madibaz, winless in last year's Varsity Cup, ended the match right on the UJ line, but were unable to convert their brave effort into a victory in front of a hugely supportive crowd at the Xerox NMMU Stadium.
It was a bitter pill to swallow for the Men from PE, with captain - and Man of the Match - Jaco Swanepoel praising the performance of his charges: "What can I say? We came so close... credit to my guys."
The home side found themselves 3-0 down after just eight minutes, but that three-point deficit would become eight just one minute later when flyhalf Theuns Kotze - formerly of Pukke - ran the re-start back at NMMU; his great run, and quick thinking, leading a Wigan Pekeur try.
Kotze, who had slotted his team's first points via that eighth-minute penalty, missed the conversion - but the visitors would have been very happy at 8-0 up after just nine minutes of action.
NMMU seemed to be struggling to get into the game, but as the game edged towards the half-hour mark fullback Vuyolethu Mazaka snapped up a loose UJ pass in his own 22, with centre Wade Roos diving over on the opposite end of the field after great work from Mazaka and left-wing Makholokoe Ramashala.
Flyhalf Marius Muller, despite an earlier penalty miss, slotted the tricky conversion and the home side were just 7-8 down after thirty minutes. They would have felt confident trailing by just one point, especially after seeing little ball up till then, but a second Kotze penalty made it 11-7 to the University of Johannesburg at half-time.
Unfortunately for the Madibaz, they started the second half slowly - as they did against Tuks last week - and soon found themselves trailing 18-7 when outside centre Luan Steenkamp cut back inside the NMMU defence (from a well-timed Kotze pass) to score his team's second try.
At 7-18 down the hosts could have been forgiven for giving up... but the deficit seemed to spur them on as flyhalf Muller slotted two penalties to narrow the score to 18-13.
UJ's Kotze knocked over his third penalty to keep their noses in front at 21-13, but another Muller penalty meant it was game on in the final quarter.
It was more than game on, in fact, and the Madibaz spent the last five minutes camped deep in UJ territory.
With just three minutes left they won a penalty virtually on the UJ line, only to lose the ball ahead. The ensuing scrum led to some nervous moments for UJ as winger Pekeur lost the ball forward, leading to another NMMU scrum after a TMO ruling - this time with just one minute remaining on the clock.
Madibaz scrumhalf Shannon Rick fed the scrum and No.12 Jeffrey Taljaard hit the ball up. They went wide and fullback Mazaka sped ahead - only for Steenkamp (his team's second-half try-scorer) to make a match-saving tackle in the nick of time as the ball was also spilled forward by the NMMU No.15.
For FNB NMMU:
Pens: Muller 3
For FNB UJ:
Tries: Pekeur, Steenkamp
Pens: Kotze 3
NMMU: 15 Vuyolethu Mazaka, 14 Juan du Preez, 13 Wade Roos, 12 Jeffrey Taljaard, 11 Makholokoe Ramashala, 10 Marius Muller, 9 Shannon Rick, 8 Jaco Swanepoel (captain), 7 Theunis Derksen, 6 Ferdinand Gerber, 5 Mzwande Zito, 4 Schalk Oelofse, 3 Musa Tukela, 2 Martin Ferreira, 1 Ross David-Anderson.
Replacements: 16 Lumka Mbane, 17 Dexter Seanancy, 18 Louis Fourie, 19 Andre Goosen, 20 Martin Ruiters, 21 Bradley Kretzmann, 22 Hlangoluhle Nodongwe, 23 Andile Mrwebi.
UJ: 15 Aubrey McDonald, 14 Wigan Pekeur, 13 Luan Steenkamp, 12 Divan van Zyl, 11 Lolo Waka, 10 Theuns Kotze, 9 Daniel Botha, 8 Justin Wheeler (captain), 7 Wendal Wehr, 6 Johan van Deventer, 5 Marnus van Huyssteen, 4 Jacobus Swanepoel, 3 Jaco Vermeulen, 2 Francois du Toit, 1 Caylib Oosthuizen.
Replacements: 16 George Ries, 17 Ollie Terblanche, 18 Shane Kirkwood, 19 Cameron Peverett, 20 André Smith, 21 Earl Lewis, 22 Harry Collins, 23 Anthony Gallacher.
Referee: François Groenewald
TMO: Johann Meuwesen