UCT broke their Varsity Cup curse with a 26-16 victory over Tuks in the final in Pretoria.
UCT shot out of the gates, scoring in the first minute after stealing a Tuks lineout feed and shifting the ball wide to No 8 Greg Mallett. Demetri Catrakilis added the extras, but that was as good as it got for the Capetonians in the first half.
Tuks’ intensity, power and accuracy in the collisions was impressive, and their work at the breakdown rabid. That stifled UCT’s ability to play the expansive game they are renowned for, and their unwillingness to shift to a more pragmatic approach cost them initially.
Tuks conversely seemed to have found their attacking groove after a slow start, flyhalf Wesley Dunlop sinking two penalties before centre Jean du Plessis rounded off a move that featured efficient phase play. Dunlop banked the conversion and later a penalty, before Catrakilis made it a six point deficit (16-10) going down the tunnel.
Tuks had bossed the facets of play that mattered up to that point, with UCT having a limited rebuttal to their brutal gain line assault and set piece superiority. A rebound looked unlikely at that stage, but the visitors showed a greater appreciation for building a platform and profited as a result. Two Catrakilis penalties got them level with 25 minutes to play and with that came a patent shift in momentum.
Tuks’ defensive resolve was steadily eroded by their determined opponents, and when UCT hooker Matthew Page finished off a move that featured multiple phases, you sensed Tuks’ resistance had been depleted. Catrakilis continued his flawless kicking performance with the conversion and a fourth penalty to establish a 10 point lead.
The hosts finished strongly, but UCT’s defensive effort was immense, tackling desperately through a plethora of phases for six minutes to hold on for a deserved victory.