Johan Deysel’s two late tries sent Pukke into the Varsity Cup play-offs, despite losing 29-26 to Shimlas in Bloemfontein.
Pukke needed two bonus points to leapfrog Maties into the play-offs on points difference, but after a strong start by Shimlas, that outcome looked unlikely as the hosts scored an early converted try through Elandre Huggett after they camped on the Pukke line.
The 2014 finalists hit back soon after with an unconverted five-pointer by Dalen Goliath, but then conceded twice more before the break to trail 24-5.
All the momentum had been with Shimlas until that point, but it was deadlocked in the second stanza when livewire scrumhalf Dillon Smit cut through the defence to score Pukke’s second, before Shimlas’ Gerhard Olivier crossed for his second of the evening.
With Shimlas sitting pretty with a 16-point lead going into the final 10 minutes, Pukke captain Johan Deysel took centre stage, cracking the hosts’ defence in the 71st and 76th minutes respectively, to earn his side two bonus points and a berth in the semi-finals.
Elsewhere, Maties produced their best performance in their final round-robin game, as they ran in seven tries to beat CUT 50-8, but it wasn’t enough to reach the knock-out stage of the competition. This will only be the second time in Varsity Cup history that Maties will miss the play-offs.
In Cape Town, UCT scored a single try to beat UJ 8-0 to confirm their status as semi-finalists alongside Shimlas, Tuks and now Pukke. Meanwhile, Tuks travelled to Port Elizabeth where they thumped NMMU 40-8, with flank Wiaan Lieberberg scoring a brace.
And in Varsity Shield action, James Verity-Amm’s hat-trick highlighted UWC’s 58-8 thrashing of UFH in Alice, to keep their title hopes alive. And in Pretoria, Wits piled more misery on TUT with a 50-5 victory to cement their place at the top of the standings.
NMMU (8) – Try Brian Skosana. Conversion: Steven Hansel.
Tuks (40) – Tries: Wiaan Liebenberg (2), Reniel Hugo, Clyde Davids, Riaan Britz. Conversions: Joshua Stander (3), Dewald Human (2).
UCT (8) – Try: Jason Klaasen. Conversion: Thomas Bednall
CUT (8) – Try: Lethole Makoena. Conversion: TBC
Maties (50) – Tries: Kobus van Dyk (2), Lourens Fick (3), Paul Streicher, Derick Linde. Conversions: Brandon Thomson (5).
Shimlas(29) – Tries: Elandre Huggett, Niell Jordaan, Gerhard Olivier (2). Conversion: AJ Coertzen (3).
Pukke (26) – Tries: Dalen Goliath, Dillon Smit, Johan Deysel (2). Conversions: Rhyno Smith (2).
UFH (8) – Try: Zanoxolo Qwele. Conversion: Akhona Matutu.
UWC (58) – Tries: Minenhle Mthethwa, James Verity-Amm (3), Quaid Langeveldt (2), Gordon-Wayne Plaatjes, Mogamat Railoun. Conversions: Darian Hock (6).
Wits (50) – Tries: Marx Koch (2), Tommy Damba, Richard Crossman, IshBunda Nkolo (2), Joshua Jarvis. Conversions: Brandan Hewitt (3), Ben Baggot (2).
Photo: Varsity Cup/SASPA