The FNB UP-Tuks Under-20s struck the first blow ahead of the Varsity Cup Finals Day by beating the Steinhoff Maties U20 team by 35-26 in their fiercely contested Varsity Young Guns Final in Pretoria on Monday.
It was typical finals rugby from the start with neither side willing to give an inch in an uncompromising battle, but it was the home side who held a slender 2-0 lead at the first strategy break thanks to a penalty from fullback Jacques Rossouw.
The visitors struck a major blow when left wing Giovanni Hofmeyer chased a kick ahead and plucked the ball out of the grasp of Tuks wing Andile Jho before giving it to inside centre Kobus van Wyk who briefly juggled the ball before he powered over the line for a well-taken try which was converted by flyhalf Warren Seals to put Maties ahead by 8-2.
Seals added a penalty shortly afterwards to give his side an eight-point advantage and that seemed to spark Tuks to life as they took the game to their opponents which paid dividends when Rossouw got over for a converted try to level the scores just before halftime. The forwards had laid a solid platform with a powerful driving maul and when it was sent wide Rossouw joined the line at pace before accelerating through a gap to go over for the try which he would convert himself.
Tuks carried that momentum into the second half and it was that man Rossouw who crashed over again after an impressive break from Jho who carried the ball into the Maties 22 after being put in space by scrumhalf Carlo Engelbrecht.
The home side refused to sit on their lead and were duly rewarded for their attacking intent when Jho toed a loose pass ahead to go over for an opportunistic try, and when Rossouw added another penalty to his tally shortly afterwards Tuks were firmly in control with a 25-10 lead.
But the junior Maties were not going to just roll over and take that sort of treatment lightly and they hit back when hooker and captain Stefan Coetzee got over for a try in the right-hand corner following a well-organised line-out drive.
The Tuksies stretched their lead when Rossouw slotted his third penalty but the Maties responded in fine style by storming into opposition territory with big outside centre Pat Howard crashing over for the try after a quick tap in the 22.
Seals added the conversion from wide on the left to narrow the gap to one point but Tuks hit back in emphatic fashion with tighthead prop Christopher Gouws barging his way over next to the poles for a try which meant that the Maties would have to score twice in the dying stages to snatch victory.
The visitors gave everything they had in an effort to reel them in but Tuks stood firm and defended their lead to clinch victory and claim the first Varsity Cup Young Guns title.
For the FNB UP-Tuks Under-20s:
Tries: Rossouw 2, Jho, Gouws
Cons: Rossouw 3
Pens: Rossouw 3
For the Steinhoff Maties Under-20s:
Tries: Van Wyk, Coetzee, Howard
Cons: Seals 3
UP-Tuks U20: 15 Jacques Rossouw, 14 Andile Jho, 13 Lood de Jager, 12 Christopher Bosch, 11 Travis Ismaiel, 10 Francois Tredoux, 9 Carlo Engelbrecht, 8 Ruan Steenkamp, 7 Cloete Wessels, 6 Shaun Adendorf, 5 Marvin Orie (captain), 4 Jacques du Plessis, 3 Christoph Gouws, 2 Jan Enslin, 1 Justin Forwood.
Replacements: 16 Hamish Herd, 17 Neethling Fouche, 18 Dennis Visser, 19 Victor Hechtor, 20 Kefentse Mahlo, 21 Burger Odendaal, 22 Damian van Wyk, 23 Andrew Beerwinkel.
Maties U20: 15 Devon Williams, 14 Ruan Mostert, 13 Pat Howard, 12 Kobus van Wyk, 11 Giovanni Hofmeyer, 10 Warren Seals, 9 Gerhard Jordaan, 8 PJ Clift, 7 Lungelo Chongo, 6 Beyers de Villiers, 5 Renier Ehlers, 4 Grant Prior, 3 Herman de Wet, 2 Stefan Coetzee (captain), 1 Dawie Brink.
Replacements: 16 Du Toit Visser, 17 Kelvin Stouman, 18 Jean Kleyn, 19 Siya Mhlongo, 20 Braam Venter, 21 Michael de Boer, 22 Christof van Tonder, 23 Clint Lemkus.