The FNB UKZN Impi produced a stunning late comeback to secure a tense 34-31 away victory over the FNB TUT Vikings and move to the top of the Varsity Shield standings on Thursday.
The Pietermaritzburg outfit, who failed to win a game last season, showed great character under pressure to down the former Varsity Cup side on their home turf and establish themselves as major contenders this year.
The Vikings had taken a 23-18 lead into the break thanks to two tries from flying wing Fanie Raseroka just before halftime, and looked to be cruising to victory until some late heroics from UKZN replacement Hendrik Groenewald snatched victory for the visitors.
Groenewald managed to cross the whitewash twice in the last ten minutes of the match, and although a late try from TUT centre Zandre De Bruin earned the Vikings two bonus points they will still be bitterly disappointed at letting the game slip out of their grasp.
Meanwhile, in Bloemfontein the FNB CUT Ixias got their Varsity Shield campaign off to a solid start by downing the dangerous FNB UWC 25-10.
The Ixias outscored the Cape outfit by three tries to one despite losing countless line-outs in the blustery conditions, with their physical forward pack laying a good foundation for the backline to exploit.
UWC could not find the fluency that saw them score five tries against the TUT Vikings in Bellville on Monday, and played 20 minutes of the match with just seven forwards as both of their locks were shown yellow cards.
Tries from centre Johan van Schalkwyk, wing Alec Mhlanga and captain Inus Kritzinger saw the Ixias cruise to an ultimately comfortable victory, although UWC did get some late consolation when centre Yondela Stampu crossed for their only try of the match.
Varsity Shield action continues on Monday when the Impi host the Ixias in Pietermaritzburg and the Vikings look to turn their season around against the FNB Fort Hare Blues in Alice.