In our continued series looking back on rugby’s most memorable comebacks, MARIETTE ADAMS recalls the Ikey Tigers’ epic late win over Pukke in the Varsity Cup final in Potchefstroom in 2014.
The world of sport has produced it’s fair share of unforgettable upsets, comebacks and implosions. The 2014 Varsity Cup had all that and more.
With a one-two finish on the table following the completion of the regular season, Pukke and Ikeys were deserved finalists. Pukke had lost one game all season, while UCT lost just twice. They beat NMMU and Maties in the respective semi-finals to set up a tasty title decider between the two form teams of the year.
And, yet, Pukke were hot favourites to get over the line and claim what would have been their maiden title. It all went according to script, until it didn’t.
Pukke wasted no time racing out to what seemed like an unassailable 33-15 lead – thanks to tries by Rhyk Welgemoed, Luther Obi, Armand van der Merwe, Dillon Smit and Francois Robbertse.
You’d think that was the game done and dusted, right? Wrong, because ‘epic comeback’ joined the group chat and led the the conversation.
With five minutes remaining and their dream of winning the title diminishing by the second, UCT turned the tide of the battle. No 8 Michael Botha and flyhalf Dean Grant scored in quick succession and the latter converted both, having missed his previous three attempts, to set the game on a knife’s edge at 33-31 with under a minute to go.
But, again, it seemed as though Pukke would stem the flow and UCT would fall just short as the former team secured possession with time up on the clock. All Pukke had to do was boot the ball into touch. But flyhalf Johnny Welthagen went for a drop goal that was charged down, Ikeys counter-attacked and replacement Nathan Nel dived over under the posts, with the clock showing 82 minutes and 30 seconds, to complete the most incredible and unlikely comeback.
Photo: Lee Warren/Gallo Images