The 2021 edition of the Varsity Cup got underway this weekend.
Here, we provide a wrap of the results and fixtures from the opening round.
Sunday, 4 April
CUT Ixias 46-13 UJ
After losing all five of their matches in last year's Varsity Cup, UJ were hoping to make a winning start to the 2021 tournament, writes Bronwen Bain. However, it was CUT Ixias who made an early statement with a six-try, bonus-point win.
It was set up by the CUT pack, who dominated the UJ scrum throughout. As a result, Ixias tighthead prop Janu Botha won the FNB Player That Rocks award.
The Bloemfontein university’s first four tries were all scored by forwards – flank Johannes Terblanche, lock Brendon Fortuin, hooker Janus Venter and No 8 Ulrich Stander, who burst away down the left touchline.
Stander’s seven-pointer gave CUT a 26-6 lead after 50 minutes and while winger Prince Nkabinde’s try gave UJ hope, Ixias flyhalf Charles Williams’ boot and two tries from fullback Cohen Jasper completed a convincing win. Jasper stepped past two defenders during a brilliant run to score his second.
FNB Player that Rocks: Janu Botha (CUT)
CUT Ixias 46 (19)
Tries: Johannes Terblanche, Brendon Fortuin, Janus Venter, Ulrich Stander (1x7) Cohen Jasper (2)
Conversions: Charles Williams (4)
Penalties: Williams (2)
UJ 13 (6)
Try: Prince Nkabinde
Conversion: Jonathan Viljoen
Penalties: Viljoen (2)
UP Tuks 48-25 Wits
UP-Tuks switched gears in the second half to record a bonus-point win against Wits, writes Dan Lombard.
It was the visitors who hit the ground running with a try by hooker Morne Brandon after five minutes. He followed up with his brace 13 minutes later as the blue machine used their powerful forwards to dominant the lineout.
UP-Tuks fullback Alex-Zander du Plessis kept his charges within a shout of the opposition as he landed five penalties while his counterpart on the kicking tee, flyhalf Christian Humphries, added a conversion and a penalty to hand Wits a slender 18-15 lead at the break.
UP-Tuks returned the favour in the second half as they maintained possession while playing in the right areas and their efforts were rewarded within three minutes as inside centre Louritz van der Schyff finished off a sweeping movement with a point-of-origin try.
Rugby fans will know how descriptive the banter between forwards and backs is and the UP-Tuks forwards ensured one of their own bagged the next five-pointer via replacement prop Dewald Donald.
The Johannesburg-based Witsies enjoyed a family affair as replacement hooker Justin Brandon, older brother of Morné, crossed the whitewash.
A touching moment was when UP-Tuks replacement Werner Fourie took to the field after recovering from brain surgery to remove a tumour that was diagnosed after Round 1 last season.
The final 10 minutes belonged to the Stripe Generation as replacement loose forward Stephan Smit and scrumhalf Clyde Lewis crossed the chalk, while Du Plessis ended the evening with 10/10 kicks at goal.
FNB Player that Rocks: Alex-Zander du Plessis (UP-Tuks)
UP Tuks 48 (15)
Tries: Louritz van der Schyff (1×7), Dewald Donald, Stephan Smit, Clyde Lewis
Conversions: Alex-Zander du Plessis (4)
Penalties: Du Plessis (6)
Wits 25 (18)
Tries: Morne Brandon (2), Justin Brandon
Conversions: Christian Humphries (2)
Penalties: Humphries (2)
Monday, 5 April
NWU Eagles 47-28 Madibaz
All eyes were on the Madibaz upon their return to the Varsity Cup and they gave a good account of themselves against the highly-rated NWU Eagles, writes Bronwen Bain.
Madibaz struck first in the scorching Pretoria heat when they sent the ball wide to winger Khakalethu Bophi, who dotted down in the corner. NWU Eagles responded through promising centre Conan Le Fleur, who scored a try on his Varsity Cup debut, and flyhalf Marco Donges’ conversion edged them ahead 7-5 midway through the first half.
NWU Eagles hooker Gustav du Rand scored the first of his two tries from a clever lineout move that saw the ball returned to him, and when winger Pienaar van Niekerk ran in another try, the Potchefstroom side led 19-8.
Madibaz flyhalf Christiaan Schutte’s second penalty, just before half-time, kept his team in the game, and they struck again straight after the break when flank Arnouw Nel barged his way over the line.
Du Rand then went over for his second try, before Madibaz captain Luyolo Dapula scored his team’s third.
But two tries in quick succession from NWU Eagles debutants Ruben Dreyer and Meyer Kriel (the latter’s a seven-pointer) made the game safe for their side at 40-21.
Replacement Chadwin November scored a well-deserved bonus-point try for the Madibaz, with the NWU Eagles grabbing their seventh on the stroke of full-time via Riaan Genis.
FNB Player That Rocks: Gustav du Rand (NWU Eagles)
NWU Eagles – 47 (11)
Tries: Conan Le Fleur, Gustav du Rand (2), Pienaar van Niekerk, Ruben Dreyer, Meyer Kriel (1x7), Riaan Genis.
Conversions: Marco Donges, Le Fleur, Keagan Fortune (3).
NMU Madibaz – 28 (11)
Tries: Khakalethu Bophi, Arnouw Nel, Luyolo Dapula, Kholiwe Khonza.
Conversion: Chadwyn November.
Penalties: Christiaan Schutte (2).
UWC 28-28 UFS Shimlas
UFS Shimlas tried as they might to snatch victory at the death but had to settle for a 28-28 draw with UWC, writes Dan Lombard.
UWC and UFS Shimlas both went into the match sporting new coaches in Paul Treu (former Blitzboks coach) and Pote Human (former Bulls coach) yet nerves seemed to be settled as their experience shone through once the opening minutes worth of teething problems ticked past.
Udubs opened the scoring in the most blistering of fashions as outside centre Aydon Topley swooped in to score a try on debut which flyhalf Mikyle Vraagom converted with ease.
Their Bloemfontein counterparts managed to string a few phases together, which paid out in a try, only for the TMO to disallow it due to a foot in touch.
It became apparent after the first strategy break that UWC were going to attack from everywhere and fullback Gilroy Philander capitalised on this mentality with two point-of-origin tries, including a spectacular dive over the whitewash to beat his defender by mere millimetres.
The 10 minutes before and after half-time showcased two scintillating tries, with Shimlas inside centre Janco Klinck bagging a point-of-origin try that saw the hands of several of his teammates before ending in his breadbasket, while Udubs took only four minutes post half-time to score their bonus-point try courtesy of wing Lundi Msenge.
A common thread throughout the match was large periods of both teams struggling to threaten the scoreboard as play was contained largely between the two red zones.
The final 20 minutes were dominated by UFS Shimlas. Debutant Pierre Uys scored his second try before replacement loose forward George Rossouw's seven-pointer earned them a bonus point and levelled the scores.
Flyhalf Ethan Wentzel missed the conversion of Rossouw’s try and a late penalty goal attempt, while replacement JP Duvenage was also off-target for UFS Shimlas as both teams had to settle for a draw.
FNB Player That Rocks: Gilroy Lee Philander ( UWC)
UWC – 28 (23)
Tries: Aydon Topley, Gilroy Lee Philander (2x7), Lundi Msenge.
Conversions: Mikyle Vraagom (2).
UFS Shimlas – 28 (14)
Tries: Pierre Uys (2), Janco Klinck (1x7), George Rossouw (1x7).
Conversions: Ethan Wentzel (3).
UCT Ikeys 26-20 Maties
UCT Ikeys claimed their first win against their arch-rivals in six matches and ended Maties’ 25-match winning streak in the FNB Varsity Cup, writes Bronwen Bain.
In a game plagued by more yellow cards than tries, flyhalf James Tedder got UCT Ikeys off to an emphatic start when his cross-kick was chased down by scrumhalf-turned-wing Liam Kloosman, who scored in the corner. Tedder missed the conversion but added a penalty to make it 8-0.
Ikeys' elation was short-lived, though, as lock Matthew Grobler and prop Robert Hunt were yellow-carded in quick succession. Maties took full advantage when captain David Brits scored a converted try, but Tedder slotted a penalty while his side was down to 13 men to make it 11-7.
On the stroke of half-time, lock Simon Miller was handed Maties' first yellow card and UCT Ikeys hooker Devon Arendse scored from a lineout driving maul.
After UCT Ikeys winger Rethabile Louw and Maties flank Matthys Kitshoff had received the fourth and fifth yellow cards of the night, No 8 Christian Stehlik scored from a powerful Ikeys scrum. Tedder nailed the conversion and a mammoth penalty to make it 26-13.
UCT Ikeys’ fourth yellow card, for replacement hooker Josh van Vuuren, was followed by a converted try for Maties flank Mitchell Carstens.
Maties pushed hard for a match-winning try in stoppage time, but UCT Ikeys were able to hang on for a well-deserved win.
FNB Player That Rocks: James Tedder (UCT)
UCT – 26 (16)
Tries: Liam Kloosman, Devon Arendse, Christian Stehlik.
Conversion: James Tedder.
Penalties: Tedder (3).
Maties – 20 (7)
Tries: David Brits, Mitchell Carstens.
Conversions: Nevaldo Fleurs (2).
Penalties: Fleurs (2).
After a two-day tournament break, the FNB Varsity Cup will resume on Thursday, 8 April with five matches across two venues.