Bloemfontein - UFS-Shimlas have beaten NWU-Pukke 63-33 in an epic final in Bloemfontein on Monday to claim their first Varsity Cup title.
The hosts outscored their old rivals by nine tries to four in a breathless match to end the season unbeaten and hand Pukke their second consecutive final defeat.
The visitors made a determined start to the match, and drove Shimlas deep into their own territory where they were able to force a penalty which was slotted by Rhyno Smith.
However, they were reduced to 14 men shortly afterwards when flank Marno Redelinghuys was shown a yellow card for a dangerous tackle, and the home side took advantage immediately with lock Johan van der Hoogt barging over for the opening try which put them 8-2 up once converted by flyhalf Niel Marais.
They did not have that lead for long though, as Marais’ clearance from the restart was charged down by Pukke scrumhalf Malherbe Swart who scored under the poles to put his side back in front.
The Potchefstroom students were not done there and added a second try straight away, with inside centre Johan Deysel running a great line off a line-out in their own half to race away and score to stretch their lead out to 18-8 despite being a man down.
Shimlas hit back just after the first strategy break, with big No 8 Niell Jordaan crashing over from a driving maul to cap a sustained period of pressure, but the visitors were able to respond with another Smith penalty which took their lead out to 20-13.
The drama continued as Pukke captain Jeandre Rudolph was sent to the sin bin on the half-hour mark for repeated breakdown infringements and the home side duly capitalised with wing Maphutha Dolo stepping through a gap for a try that gave them the lead.
They were not done there though and came up with a fantastic counter-attack from their own half which was sparked by Vuyani Maqina who found Marais on the inside and the flyhalf produced a sensational offload to put flying flank Daniel Maartens away for a try which put them 26-20 ahead at half-time.
The hosts scored their fifth try just after the break with Marais central once again as he collected a partially charged kick and got the ball away to Dolo who released outside centre Nico Lee to surge over the whitewash.
At 34-20 down, Pukke were right up against it and their forwards produced the perfect response with Rudolph scoring a pushover try from a dominant atacking scrum.
The seesaw battle continued as Shimlas hit back with a second try from Lee who hit a well-timed pass from Marais at pace to burst through and score under the poles.
That left Pukke with it all to do in the last 20 minutes, but it was not to be as tries from Marais, Dolo and Maartens piled more misery on the Potchefstroom side, and although the visitors had the last say with a late try from Rowayne Beukman it mattered little as the hosts claimed an emphatic victory in the end.
Shimlas: 63 - Tries: Van der Hoogt, Jordaan, Dolo (2), Maartens (2), Lee (2), Marais; Conversions: Marais (6)
Pukke: 33 - Tries: Swart, Deysel, Rudolph, Beukman; Conversions: Smith (3); Penalties: Smith (2)
Yellow cards: Marno Redelinghuys (NWU-Pukke, 5 mins – Dangerous tackle) Jeandre Rudolph (NWU-Pukke, 30 mins – Repeated infringements)
15 AJ Coertzen (captain), 14 Vuyani Maqina, 13 Nico Lee, 12 Tertius Kruger, 11 Maphutha Dolo, 10 Niel Marais, 9 Renier Botha, 8 Niell Jordaan, 7 Gerhard Olivier, 6 Daniel Maartens, 5 Johan van der Hoogt, 4 Henco Venter, 3 Conraad Van Vuuren, 2 Elandre Hugget, 1 Ox Nche
Substitutes: 16 Jacques du Toit, 17 Theunis Nieuwoudt, 18 Boela Venter, 19 De Wet Kruger, 20 Nhlanhla Hlongwane, 21 JP Coetzee, 22 Refuoe Rampete, 23 Dolph Botha.
15 Rhyno Smith, 14 Dalen Goliath, 13 Rowayne Beukman, 12 Johan Deysel, 11 Dillon Smit, 10 Jonny 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
Substitutes: 16 Wilmar Arnoldi, 17 Mogau Makobela, 18 Daniel Jordaan, 19 Molotsi Bouwer, 20 Johannes Briers, 21 Bouke Tack, 22 Juandre Williams, 23 Cayle Denner.
Referees: Stephan Geldenhuys, Tahla Ntshakaza
Assistant referees: Oregopotse Rametsi, Lourens van der Merwe
TMO: Johan Greeff