FNB NMMU produced an historic 13-7 win over defending Varsity Cup champions, FNB UP-Tuks, to claim a first-ever semifinal place in this competition under stunning circumstances.
The Madibaz, who in previous seasons of FNB Varsity Cup presented by Steinhoff International had been on the receiving end of some big losses, have had a huge 2013 season – winning all their home games and qualifying for the Last Four.
In 2010, for instance, the Madibaz lost a league match 97-14 to FNB UJ (in Johannesburg). That year, they lost five matches by fifty points or more – including a 63-36 defeat at the hands of Tuks – the side they beat tonight in truly sensational circumstances, given all that was at stake for the hosts.
Not only was it their first-ever win over Tuks, but it also gave them a first-ever semifinal place in the process – albeit by a points’ difference of just two points.
But it was a deserved outcome for the Madibaz, who suffered just two losses and one draw alongside their four wins to propel them into the semifinals – ahead of teams like the FNB NWU-Pukke (by those two points on points’ difference), the FNB Shimlas and FNB UCT; between them all former semifinalists, finalists and winners.
NMMU led 7-0 at half-time, through a try and one penalty, with Justin van Staden adding another three penalties in the second half.
Hooker Martin Ferreira had scored his team’s first-half try, leaving him on two tries for the season – behind captain Roy Godfrey and fellow forward Ulrich Pretorius, both of whom scored three tries in this watershed Varsity Cup campaign.
The Madibaz were first to score in the second half when Van Staden chipped over a second penalty but UP-Tuks finally got on the board through inside centre Handre Pollard’s own penalty goal.
Van Staden, however, was not done yet and two more penalties from his steady right boot saw the hosts stretch their lead to 11 points at 13-2.
Replacement UP-Tuks hooker Jaco Visagie did narrow the gap to 7-13 with a try of his own, but the 2012 champions were unable to register any more points in the remainder of the match.
Their losing bonus point saw them finish the regular season on 22 points, which meant a second successive home semifinal for the Men from Pretoria, who will host FNB UJ in next week’s 2013 Varsity Cup semifinals.
The Madibaz, meanwhile, will head to the Cape to take on the table-topping and unbeaten FNB Maties in Stellenbosch in their semifinal – something which not many people would have predicted at the start of this season… but a position which nobody would begrudge them after some excellent performances.
NMMU: 15 Jarred Buys, 14 Logan Basson, 13 Hermanus van Lill, 12 Xolani Mnisi, 11 Gerhardus Smith, 10 Justin Van Staden, 9 Dwayne Kelly, 8 Timothy Agaba, 7 Stefan Willemse, 6 Albertus de Swardt, 5 Mzwanale Zito, 4 Louis Fourie, 3 Gareth Hartley, 2 Martin Ferreira, 1 Roy Godfrey (captain).
Replacements: 16 Francois Coetzer, 17 Lizo Gqoboka, 18 Ferdinand Gerber, 19 Ulrich Pretorius, 20 Simphiwe Shabangu, 21 Devon Lailvaux, 22 Lesley-Dean Luiters, 23 Dexter Fahey.