FNB UP-Tuks boosted their hopes of securing a home semifinal with a last-gasp 34-29 victory over FNB UJ in a thrilling FNB Varsity Cup trans-Jukskei derby at UJ Stadium on Monday.
UP-Tuks got off to a perfect start when Handre Pollard, operating at inside centre, barged over the advantage line and quick ball saw fullback Clayton Blommetjies dive over in the third minute, Pollard adding the conversion.
UJ, to their credit, kept their composure and levelled the scores through a converted try by loosehead prop Wessel du Randt, who powered over the line despite the efforts of two UP-Tuks defenders.
The tries kept coming and the next score - in the ninth minute - was a piece of individual brilliance by Piet Lindeque. The outside centre found an opening with a show-and-go and blitzed De Kock to score in the right-hand corner, with Pollard kicking the difficult conversion.
De Kock came within a metre of scoring with a similar incisive run but Courtnall Skosan saved the day with a great tackle. Scrumhalf Jacques Pretorius then came close from a quick tap five metres out only to be held up.
UP-Tuks absorbed the pressure and countered with a 10-point blitz sparked by that man Pollard. The Baby Bok flyhalf slotted a long-range penalty before breaking away and linking up with fellow IRB Junior World Championship winner Shaun Adendorff who ran in unopposed.
UJ had the final say of the half as Du Randt drove over from a driving maul on the stroke of half-time and De Kock converted, but UP-Tuks still held a 10-point lead (26-16) at the break.
The lead was cut to just two points five minutes after the interval as Pretorius caught the visitors unawares with another quick tap and this time he was not to be denied.
UP-Tuks were feeling the pressure and the composure they showed in the first half abandoned them as they butchered a certain try when they failed to score from a four-on-one situation.
In true FNB Varsity Cup fashion, UJ turned down a kickable penalty in search of a try in the 65th minute, but the decision proved costly as UP-Tuks were able to secure a turnover and avert the danger.
With the match on a knife edge, UJ attacked from turnover ball with quick hands opening up space for Chrysander Botha. The left wing stepped inside and found De Kock who beat three defenders to score in the left-hand corner to edge the hosts in front 29-24 with just five minutes to go.
However, UP-Tuks hit back moments later as hooker Mbongeni Mbonambi powered past two defenders and offloaded brilliantly in the tackle for Skosan to run in the match winner.
For FNB UJ: Tries: Du Randt 2, Pretorius, De Kock. Cons: De Kock 3.
For FNB UP-Tuks: Tries: Blommetjies, Lindeque, Adendorff, Skosan. Cons: Pollard 4. Pen: Pollard
FNB UJ: 15 Kobus De Kock, 14 JR Esterhuizen, 13 Bradley Moolman, 12 Luan Steenkamp, 11 Chrysander Botha, 10 Divan van Zyl (captain), 9 Jacques Pretorius, 8 RJ Liebenberg, 7 Johan van der Hoogt, 6 Thilip Marole, 5 David Antonites, 4 Shane Kirkwood, 3 Ewald Van Der Westhuizen, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Wessel Du Randt .
Replacements: 16 AJ le Roux, 17 Wiseman Kamanga, 18 Fabian Booysen, 19 Kobus Porter, 20 Vian van der Watt, 21 Adriaan Vermeulen, 22 Dries Oosthuizen, 23 Njabulo Mkize.
FNB UP-Tuks: 15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Vainon Willis, 13 Piet Lindeque, 12 Handre Pollard, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Willie du Plessis, 9 Danie Faasen, 8 Jono Ross (captain), 7 Jacques du Plessis, 6 Shaun Adendorff, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Mike Williams, 3 Basil Short, 2 Mbongeni Mbonambi, 1 Juan Schoeman.
Replacements: 16 Jaco Visagie, 17 Christoph Gouws, 18 Schalk Van Heerden, 19 Wesley Kotze, 20 Emile Temperman, 21 Christopher Bosch, 22 Riaan Britz, 23 Sabelo Nhlapo.
Referee: Rasta Rasivhenge