UCT scored three tries in the last five minutes of the Varsity Cup final to beat Pukke 39-33 in Potchefstroom.
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 an incredible comeback.
It was a thrilling final that will live long in the memory.
The visitors got off to a flying start as a flowing backline move saw outside centre Huw Jones hit a gap out wide and surge over for the opening try, with flyhalf Dean Grant’s conversion attempt hitting the upright.
But Pukke soon began to dominate and were rewarded when a well-timed pass from captain Tiaan Dorfling put Rhyk Welgemoed through a gap, and there was no stopping the flank. They increased their lead shortly afterwards as good hands down the backline saw left wing Luther Obi score in the corner to make it 13-5.
Pukke then suffered a major blow when Dorfling was carried off on a stretcher.
It was end-to-end stuff as Ikeys flank Jason Klaasen won a crucial turnover on the 22 after a jinking run from Sylvian Mahuza, and the counter-attack saw wing Richard Stewart score in the corner after fullback Ross Jones-Davies had made good ground up the middle of the park.
Pukke thought they had scored just before half-time when replacement scrumhalf Dillon Smit raced away after UCT had coughed the ball up on attack, but joy turned to misery for the home crowd when the TMO harshly ruled that Johan Deysel had committed a reckless tackle. The Pukke midfielder was shown a yellow card.
Pukke made a determined start to the second half and hammered away at the UCT defence with a series of strong drives before hooker Armand van der Merwe powered his way over from close range.
That gave them an eight-point buffer, but they were reduced to 14 men once again soon afterwards when tighthead prop Nhlanhla Ngcamu was shown a yellow card for a high tackle on Liam Slatem. However, that did not seem to slow them down as Smit slotted a penalty to take their lead out to 10 points.
UCT needed a response to get back into the game and they got it from a driving maul, with the hard-working Klaasen crashing over.
UCT were cut down to 14 men after a cynical infringement from wing Lihleli Xoli on their tryline and Van der Merwe thought he had gone over for his second try straight afterwards, but the TMO incorrectly ruled that it had been a double movement.
Pukke did not let that ruffle them and they marched straight back into the UCT 22 where Smit was able to force his way over for the fourth try. Lock Francois Robbertse then added another try to make it 33-15 and the game looked done and dusted.
But Grant managed to convert tries from himself and No 8 Michael Botha before Nel broke free after the hooter to plunge a dagger into Pukke hearts and send his team-mates into ecstacy.
Earlier in the day, Heimat became the third Koshuis winners from the University of the Free State in as many seasons when they beat Patria 20-12 in the final. Heimat ran in four tries to two to secure the trophy for the first time, and to make it five winners from the UFS in the seven years of the competition – Vishuis have won it three times and Huis Armentum once.
Pukke – Tries: Rhyk Welgemoed, Luther Obi, Armand van der Merwe, Dillon Smit, Francois Robbertse. Conversions: Tiaan Dorfling, Smit. Penalty: Smit.
UCT – Tries: Huw Jones, Richard Stewart, Jason Klaasen, Michael Botha, Dean Grant, Nathan Nel. Conversions: Grant (3).
Pukke – 15 Sylvian Mahuza, 14 Edmar Marais, 13 Jaap Pienaar, 12 Johan Deysel, 11 Luther Obi, 10 Johnny Welthagen, 9, Tiaan Dorfling (c), 8 Juan Language, 7 Henro-Pierre Swart, 6 Rhyk Welgemoed, 5 Francois Robbertse, 4 Peet van der Walt, 3 Nhlanhla Ngcamu, 2 Armand van der Merwe, 1 Mashudu Mafela.
Subs: 16 Marius Fourie, 17 Johan Smith, 18 Daniel Jordaan, 19 Philip de Wet, 20 Dillon Smit, 21 Rhyno Smith, 22 Lucien Cupido, John-Roy Jenkinson.
UCT – 15 Ross Jones-Davies, 14 Richard Stewart, 13 Huw Jones, 12 Guy Schwikkard, 11 Lihleli Xoli, 10 Dean Grant, 9 Liam Slatem (c), 8 Michael Botha, 7 Vince Jobo, 6 Jason Klaasen, 5 James Kilroe, 4 Shaun McDonald, 3 Digby Webb, 2 Neil Rautenbach, 1 Joel Carew.
Subs: 16 Chad Solomon, 17 Robin Murray, 18 Kyle Kriel, 19 Guy Alexander, 20 James Alexander, 21 Martin Sauls, 22 Nathan Nel, 23 David Maasch.