Tuks claimed a 27-14 victory over Shimlas in Bloemfontein on Monday. DYLAN JACK reports.
The visitors took a 20-point lead in the second half, but did not have it all their own way as they were pushed by a Shimlas side that were out to prove a point against a team that by now should be regarded as one of the tournament favourites.
The hosts saw a good amount of possession throughout the match and had moments of attacking brilliance, but were well contained by a strong Tuks defence and let themselves down with a couple of handling errors in promising positions.
The visitors, meanwhile, controlled the game well through the boots of their halfbacks, with flyhalf Tinus de Beer having a particularly strong evening.
Once Tuks gained possession they dominated the early territory, coming close but for a couple of excellent turnovers by Shimlas flank Jan Cloete. The visitors also wasted a glorious opportunity when Dewald Naude and Damian Bonaparte both went for a ball that was chipped through, only to end up knocking it on between them.
De Beer ensured that they capitalised on their early dominance with a penalty to open the scoring. Shimlas missed the chance to draw level as centre Tiaan Schutte shanked a penalty taken just over the halfway line.
The visitors came close again through Naude, but Shimlas held strong and made some important last-ditch tackles.
After Shimlas started to gain some steam, they were hit with a hammer blow as Tuks centre Lourens Pretorius bashed his way through a couple of tackles on his way to the tryline after a sustained period of pressure.
The teams continued to go tit for tat at each other, with Tuks enjoying the bulk of territory and forcing Shimlas to attack from their own half. However, neither side managed another breakthrough, leaving the game finely poised at the break.
Tuks drew first blood in the second half, with De Beer keeping the pressure on with his second penalty. Ciaran Dayaran came close to adding a second, try but an excellent cover tackle from Rewan Kruger disrupted the ball as the strong wing was about to ground it in the corner.
The dam wall eventually burst as Tuks again broke into the Shimlas 22 and built the phases, before exploiting an overlap with a skip pass from Pretorius finding Stephan Smit out wide, with the flank able to run it in comfortably.
Referee Quinton Immelman then had to be replaced by assistant Jaco Kotze for the final quarter of the match after pulling up with an injury.
Shimlas came alive in the final 20 minutes and got their opening score when Jan Rossouw charged down a kick and collected the loose ball before setting off on a strong run that brought the home side near the opposition tryline. A couple of phases later, Albertus de Bod went through a gap to dot down and make it a 15-point game.
Moments later, they doubled their score when replacement scrumhalf Zak Burger broke from behind a ruck and sprinted a good 50m to go over in the corner for a seven-point try, with flyhalf Lubabalo Dobela’s conversion setting up a grandstand finish.
However, Tuks struck back and got a try when they needed it most as inside centre Erich Cronjé ran a perfect line off a 5m scrum and powered over despite the attention of a number of Shimlas defenders.
Shimlas – Tries: Albertus de Bod, Zak Burger. Conversion: Lubabalo Dobela.
Tuks – Tries: Lourens Pretorius, Stephan Smith, Erich Cronjé. Conversions: Tinus de Beer (3). Penalties: De Beer (2).
Shimlas – 15 Ruan Henning, 14 Cham Zondeki, 13 Tiaan Schutte, 12 William Eybers, 11 Charl Pretorius, 10 Lubabalo Dobela, 9 Rewan Kruger, 8 Mihlali Peter, 7 Albertus de Bod, 6 Jan Cloete, 5 Henk Pretorius, 4 Sibabalo Qoma, 3 Mogau Mabokela, 2 Hanno Snyman, 1 Wentzel Vorster.
Subs: 16 Willen Marais, 17 Thembinkosi Mangwana, 18 Cornelius Kramer, 19 Sihle Diniso, 20 Jan Rossouw, 21 Izak Burger, 22 Marnus Boshoff, 23 Sechaba Matsoele.
Tuks – 15 Damian Bonaparte, 14 Dewald Naude, 13 Lourens Pretorius, 12 Erich Cronje, 11 Ciaran Dayaran, 10 Tinus de Beer, 9 Theo Maree, 8 Denzel Hill, 7 Hanru Sirgel, 6 Stephan Smit, 5 Ruan Nortje, 4 Marius Verwey, 3 Jean-Pierre Smith, 2 Cornelius Grobbelaar, 1 Etienne Janeke.
Subs: 16 Werner Fourie, 17 Jacobus Eloff, 18 Bart le Roux, 19 Brian Leitch, 20 Raegan Oranje, 21 Christo Hamman, 22 Irvin Ali, 23 Mihlali Stamper.
Photo: Van Zyl Naude/Varsity Sports