Bernard van der Linde scored the winning try in the 78th minute as Tuks produced a dramatic comeback to snatch the Varsity Cup final against Maties in Stellenbosch on Monday night.
It was Tuks’ fifth title overall, putting the Pretoria university level with Maties, as they become the first-ever team in Varsity Cup history to finish fourth on the league table and go on to win the Varsity Cup title.
The 29-23 victory was Tuks’ first win at the Danie Craven Stadium since the 2013 Varsity Cup final.
It was an incredibly heroic second-half effort from the visitors, who for so long in the match were deprived of any meaningful territory and possession as they were bossed in the collisions and scrums.
Maties will rue not making more of their opportunities, particularly at the start of the second half, when they were camped on Tuks’ tryline.
The home side looked set to be cruising to a comfortable victory as flyhalf Nevaldo Fleurs had a perfect night off the kicking tee, slotting all six of his penalty attempts.
However, Tuks never let the scoreline get beyond them and wing Kabelo Mokoena kept the Stripe Generation in the match with a well-taken brace.
As it happened, Van der Linde, who scored an excellent intercept in the first half, made himself the hero for Tuks in the closing stages of the match. Maties were in control of possession and the breakdown, but bizarrely decided to kick the ball away.
Tuks fullback Stefan Coetzee gathered and broke the line from inside his own half, before offloading to put Van der Linde over for the match-winner. The pass appeared to be forward, but TMO Egon Seconds checked and could not find conclusive evidence to disallow the try, resulting in big celebrations from the away side.
Maties – Tries: Mike Mavovana. Penalty: Nevaldo Fleurs (6).
UP-Tuks – Tries: Bernard van der Linde (2), Kabelo Mokoena (2). Conversion: Walter Visser. Penalty: Stefan Coetzee.
Maties – 15 Adriaan van der Bank (c), 14 Mike Mavovana, 13 Waqar Solaan, 12 Taigh Schoor, 11 Anton du Toit, 10 Nevaldo Fleurs, 9 Thomas Bursey, 8 Simon Miller, 7 Louw Nel, 6 Gift Dlamini, 5 Matt Gray, 4 Juan Beukes, 3 Matimu Manganyi, 2 Sean Swart, 1 Vernon Matongo.
Subs: 16 Chris Rossouw, 17 Rhynhardt Rijnsburger, 18 Corne Weilbach, 19 Jesse Johnson, 20 Siyabonga Matanda, 21 Mckyle Volmoer, 22 Jurie Mathee, 23 Ghaalieb Kenny.
UP-Tuks – 15 Stefan Coetzee, 14 Kabelo Mokoena, 13 Lincoln Daniels (c), 12 Perrie Fourie, 11 Tharquinn Manuel, 10 Walter Visser, 9 Bernard van der Linde, 8 Orateng Koikanyang, 7 Stephan Smit, 6 Dian Schoonees, 5 Divan Venter, 4 Mihlali Stamper, 3 Francois Klopper, 2 Allister Williams, 1 Ethan Burger.
Subs: 16 Werner Fourie, 17 Andre van der Merwe, 18 Daniel Wessels, 19 Justice Nkombua, 20 Hilton Gie, 21 Chad-Lee Valentine, 22 Keane Galant, 23 Ambesa Zenzile.
Photo: Shaun Roy/BackpagePix