FNB UP-Tuks were made to fight in their Varsity Cup semifinal against FNB NWU-Pukke, but the home side were quite simply too good in the end as they triumphed by 53-24 to set up a home final against the FNB Maties.
UP-Tuks trailed by 13-16 at halftime and found themselves under the cosh towards the end of the first half as the NWU-Pukke went up 16-5 after an inspired period between minutes 30 and 35 in the first half.
Tries by impressive fullback SW Oosthuizen and hard-working No 8 Spanner Pretorius gave the visitors a sniff of an upset victory at the Tuks Rugby Stadium, but the Men from Pretoria held their nerve to score from a rolling maul just on halftime.
That try, by flanker Wiaan Liebenberg (the man who scored his team's crucial fourth try against FNB UCT last week), cut the visitors' halftime lead to just three points - after an excellent Wesley Dunlop conversion - and it set up an exciting second half.
The home side began the second half intent on regaining the lead, which they promptly did through elusive fullback Clayton Blommetjies's second try of the night, but the NWU-Pukke were not done yet as their try-machine Andrew van Wyk hit back with an opportunistic score of his own.
It was Van Wyk's ninth try of the season - drawing him level with current England Sevens star Mat Turner for the most tries in a single Varsity Cup season - and easily his most important score, as the Pukke regained the lead for the second time at 24-21 thanks to flyhalf Gerhard Nortier's nerveless touchline conversion.
Van Wyk's score was opportunistic, given his sterling finish - collecting his own chip ahead and catching it on the full before dotting down - but it came from a fairly innocuous pass in his own half which seemed to drift forward.
But Tuks soon benefited from some good fortune of their own when scrumhalf Lohan Jacobs was awarded a try by the TMO, despite there being some doubt as to whether winger Hayden Groepes had put a foot into touch in the lead-up and whether the try-scorer - Jacobs - had, himself, kept his boot inside the touchline.
Dunlop, however, wasted no time in slotting the touchline conversion and as Tuks crept ahead it seemed to inspire them into a flurry of tries in the remaining 24 minutes of this absorbing semifinal clash.
After Jacobs's try, powerful centre Dabeon Draghoender forced his way over the goalline some six minutes later after a good build-up from his teammates, winger Deon Helberg benefited from a clever Blommetjies stab ahead (three minutes later) and tireless No 8 Okkie Kruger powered over from close range in the 77th minute.
Dunlop calmly popped over all three conversions - missing just one kick at goal on the night - as the Pukke were eventually vanquished, having given the hosts a massive scare in a brave 25-minute period either side of halftime.
Ultimately, however, it all came down to the performances of two men - Dunlop's accurate goalkicking and the devastating running from Blommetjies (the Player that Rocks) at fullback, the duo having returned from Vodacom Cup duty to help their team into a second successive Varsity Cup Final.
For FNB UP-Tuks:
Tries: Blommetjies 2, Liebenberg, Jacobs, Draghoender, Helberg, Kruger
Cons: Dunlop 6
For FNB NWU-Pukke:
Tries: Oosthuizen, Pretorius, Van Wyk
Cons: Nortier 3
UP-Tuks: 15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Deon Helberg, 13 Jerome Pretorius, 12 Dabeon Draghoender, 11 Hayden Groepes, 10 Wesley Dunlop, 9 Lohan Jacobs, 8 Okkie Kruger, 7 Jacques Verwey, 6 Wiaan Liebenberg, 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Mike Williams, 3 Grant Kemp, 2 Zane Botha (captain), 1 Sabelo Nhlapo.
Replacements: 16 Kurt Haupt, 17 Juan Schoeman, 18 Sthembiso Mlongo, 19 Daniel Adongo, 20 Rudi van Rooyen, 21 Willie du Plessis, 22 Courtnall Skosan, 23 Basil Short.
NWU-Pukke: 15 SW Oosthuizen, 14 Andrew van Wyk, 13 Ruan Jacobs, 12 Joubert Engelbrecht (captain), 11 Joe Seerane, 10 Gerhard Nortier, 9 Tiaan Dorfling, 8 Spanner Pretorius, 7 HP Swart, 6 Siya Mdaka, 5 Victor Kruger, 4 Siyanda Ndlovu, 3 John-Roy Jenkinson, 2 JC Oberholzer, 1 Henry Scharneck.
Replacements: 16 Marius Fourie, 17 Martin Dreyer, 18 Lodewyk Uys, 19 André Barnard, 20 Andries Botha, 21 Malan van der Merwe, 22 Terswin Raubenheimer, 23 Mashudu Mafela.
Referee: Quinton Immelman
Assistant referees: Tiaan Jonker, Stefan Breytenbach
TMO: Johann Meuwesen, Johan Greeff