The NWU Eagles fired late to claim a 17-8 win over UP-Tuks in Potchefstroom in round four of the Varsity Cup on Monday.
And, in the Cape derby, the UCT Ikeys climbed into first place on the table with their 53-31 bonus-point victory over UWC, having led 28-0 at the break.
The visitors added some respectability to the scoreboard with three second-half tries.
In Potchefstroom, Tuks took the fight to the Eagles in the trenches. For much of the first half, they controlled the collisions and breakdowns, and repelled wave after wave of attack.
The nature of the contest changed, however, after Stefan Coetzee was shown a red card in the 20th minute. The Tuks fullback caught opposite number Heinrich Botha with a reckless challenge and the referee had no option but to send him off.
The visitors put their bodies on the line during the 15-minute period of sanction. A change to the Eagles front row, however, boosted the hosts’ scrum to a telling degree.
The pressure began to tell. Ruben du Plessis powered through his opponent to force a tighthead. Andre Fouche showed good awareness and determination to translate that opportunity into a try. NWU, who had spurned several scoring chances, went into the break with a 7-3 lead.
The visitors’ hit back at the scrums in the second stanza. A sustained assault on the Eagles’ line culminated in a try for flank Divan Venter in the 56th minute.
The Eagles refused to give up, though. Reserve loose forward Gustav Erlank forced his way over the line to regain the lead for the hosts.
Another strong drive into opposition territory resulted in a spectacular finish by wing Naiden Jaarts. From there, the Eagles did enough to secure the win and deny the reigning champions a losing bonus point.
In Gqeberha, Kyle Cyster scored a hat-trick to boost the Madibaz to a 36-26 bonus-point win over the CUT Ixias.
The Madibaz showed their attacking intent from the outset. The hosts lifted the tempo and caught the CUT Ixias defence by surprise. They also used the swirling wind to their advantage, and capitalised on several high-ball mistakes by the visitors.
Cyster completed a hat-trick of tries inside 27 minutes. While the Ixias lost flyhalf Xavier Swartbooi to the sin bin thereafter, they finished the half strongly to trail 33-14 at the break.
The Madibaz lost momentum after lock Dylan Halgreen received a yellow card early in the second half. From there, CUT reduced the deficit and secured a four-try bonus point.
The win is a crucial one for the Madibaz, who are looking to avoid relegation at the end of the season.
The CUT Ixias, who haven’t won a match to date, could be in trouble if they don’t arrest their current slide.
In Stellenbosch, Maties survived a big scare when they fought back from 12-3 down to beat UJ 40-38. Hooker Sean Swart scored two of his side’s four tries. The Orange Army had to settle for two bonus points for their efforts.
In Johannesburg, wing Wian de Lange scored two tries and flyhalf Chris Humphries 26 points via the boot as Wits shocked previously unbeaten UFS Shimlas 53-31. Both teams scored five tries.
Varsity Cup Round 5 fixtures (14 March):
UWC vs UP-Tuks
UJ vs Wits
CUT Ixias vs Maties
UFS Shimlas vs NWU Eagles
UCT Ikeys vs Madibaz