UP-Tuks progressed to their sixth Varsity Cup final with a 44-35 semi-final victory over Maties in Pretoria on Friday evening.
Playing on their home ground, UP-Tuks had much the better of the exchanges throughout the match and were 27 points ahead in the second half, but had to defend as Maties launched a comeback attempt in the last 15 minutes.
Tuks dominated territory for much of the game through the boot of fullback Zander du Plessis, who also broke Demetri Catrakilis’ record for most points in a single Varsity Cup season.
The home side went into the break 18-3 ahead thanks to a couple of penalties from Du Plessis, adding to tries by wing Stefan Coetzee and David Coetzer, both of whom also had excellent outings.
Maties hit back quickly in the second half when a brilliant attacking read from captain David Brits set Munier Hartzenberg away for a try to make it 18-10.
However, Tuks continued to enjoy plenty of attacking opportunities, with their driving maul in particular giving them rewards. Tries from experienced flank Stephan Smit and a sensational second from Coetzee, who plucked a clearance out of the air and ran 50 metres to score, to go with a 50m penalty from Du Plessis, saw UP into what appeared to be a comfortable lead.
Maties gave themselves a glimmer of hope when wing Sibabalwe Xamlashe scored a quickfire brace, sandwiched inbetween a try from Tuks wing Clyde Lewis, before Mitchell Carstens went over to make it a nine-point game with five minutes to go.
Receiving the ball from the kick-off, the visitors went from inside their own half and had just progressed past the halfway line when Lewis won the decisive turnover penalty, allowing Tuks to boot the ball into touch and claim the historic victory.
Maties – Tries: Munier Hartzenberg, Siba Xamlashe (2), Mitchell Carstens. Conversions: Adriaan van der Bank, Nevaldo Fleurs (2). Penalties: Van der Bank.
UP-Tuks – Tries: Stefan Coetzee (2), David Coetzer, Stephan Smit, Clyde Lewis. Conversions: Zander du Plessis (4). Penalties: Du Plessis (2).
Maties – 15 Juan Mostert, 14 Munier Hartzenberg, 13 David Brits (c), 12 Taigh Schoor, 11 Siba Xamlashe, 10 Adriaan van der Bank, 9 Bobby Alexander, 8 Thys Kitshoff, 7 Gift Dlamini, 6 Mitchell Carstens, 5 Albert Liebenberg, 4 Simon Miller, 3 Duncan du Buisson, 2 HJ Luus, 1 Dian Bleuler.
Subs: 16 Abri Coetzee, 17 Leon Lyons, 18 James Combrink, 19 Marco van Rhyn, 20 Jesse Johnson, 21 Tomas Bursey, 22 Waqar Solaan, 23 Nevaldo Fleurs.
UP-Tuks – 15 Zander du Plessis, 14 Stefan Coetzee, 13 Sango Xamlashe (c), 12 Louritz van der Schyff, 11 Tharquin Manuel, 10 David Coetzer, 9 Clyde Lewis, 8 Jaco Bezuidenhout, 7 Hanru Sirgel, 6 Eduan Lubbe, 5 Louis Meiring, 4 Mihlali Stamper, 3 Damien Swartz, 2 Werner Fourie, 1 Cebo Dlamini.
Subs: 16 Llewellyn Classen, 17 Dewald Donald, 18 Etienne Janeke, 19 Thomas Meyer, 20 Stephan Smit, 21 Johan Mulder, 22 Enrique Oranje, 23 Ambesa Zenzeli.