Cape Town - Tuks displayed a powerful defensive effort to hand them a well-deserved bonus-point 43-8 victory over UJ at the FNB Stadium in Soweto on Monday.
Tuks needed this win. After suffering three consecutive defeats in the opening three rounds of the FNB Varsity Cup presented by Steinhoff International, nothing less than a convincing win would have worked for the men from Pretoria.
In contrast, UJ were coming off three consecutive wins and were looking to remain undefeated after four rounds. However, a try by Tuks in as early as the fifth minute suggested it was going to be easier said than done.
Rain before kickoff meant that an expansive game would be difficult to execute effectively, and it would be the team that kicked out-of-hand the best would likely end on the right side of the scoreboard. Tuks adapted to the conditions the best, with superb defence and tactical kicking outplaying a UJ outfit that struggled to hold onto the ball in the wet conditions.
Tuks couldn’t have started the game better, with a great kick leading to an Tuks lineout on UJ’s five-metre line. The Pretoria men made it count, scoring the match’s opening try moments later through a strong rolling maul.
The weather continued to disadvantage UJ as early knock-ons and slipped tackles limited their attacking opportunities. Tuks continued to apply pressure through well-placed kicking, which produced a penalty in the 17th minute. Joshua Stander stepped up to add the three points.
A malfunctioning lineout added to UJ’s woes as Tuks scored one of the tries of the season. Great hands, despite the conditions, produced a magnificent nine-point try. The subsequent conversion opened up a 16-point gap between the two sides after 20-minutes. Six minutes later, Tuks showcased their defence as they shut down a UJ maul to maintain their lead.
The remainder of the first half was dominated by reset scrums as neither side was able to gain ascendency on the wet pitch. Tuks continued to be strong on defence, resisting several attacking runs by UJ. Tuks let a few opportunities go a begging themselves, but were able to add three more points through a penalty just before halftime.
UJ started the second half well with their first try of the match in the 43rd minute, but that would be the first and last time Tuks’ defence would be exposed. The Pretoria side would continue to play the conditions, using their superior lineout and kicking to create opportunities to score. Tuks’, Aston Fortuin, seized one such opportunity by taking a quick tap close to UJ’s line to score their third try. Stander would miss the conversion, but it would have little effect on the game as their fourth try in the 67th minute all but handed FNB Tuks their first win of the season.
One last try in the 78th minute rubbed salt into the wound for UJ and closed off an emphatic result for Tuks as they recorded a comfortable 43-8 victory.
Ultimately, it was Tuks’ strong defence, superior lineout and ability to adapt to the conditions that handed them their first win of the season and UJ’s first defeat. Highlighting just how quickly a team’s fortunes can change.