The first scrum of the match was the line in the sand. UCT, for so long stereotyped as an exciting attacking side with a soft underbelly, bulldozed the strong Maties pack backwards '“ letting the visitors know just what they were up against.
Fast-forward to the final whistle and the whoops of delight as the home crowd rushed onto the Green Mile to celebrate UCT's 20-8 semi-final victory. The score has given UCT supporters hope that the FNB Varsity Cup trophy might just return to the Cape this year.
The final score was fairly comfortable, but the 80 minutes before the whistle were some of the most bruising in the competition's memory. With the wind and rain at their backs, Maties besieged the UCT 22 for what seemed like the entire first half, but the Trojan home defence stood their ground.
Wave after wave of Matie attacks were repelled by the tigerish UCT, which kept its try-line pure even after Ikey wing Richard Stewart was sin-binned for repeated infringements.
Going into half-time at nil-all boosted the home team's confidence and they went into the second half with the wind in their favour.
UCT's dominance up front was particularly pleasing for the supporters, who cheered as the forwards gave UCT precious momentum in the scrums and rucks. Lock Sean McDonald was again a key ball-carrier, wrecking the advantage-line countless times.
Lihleli Xoli showed Maties how to make pressure count just seconds into the second half as the wing raced onto a chip-kick to score the opening try, with former Matie Dean Grant duly converting. Two penalties from Grant extended UCT's lead to 12-0, with the incrementally growing score reflecting the inches won and lost in the tight-loose.
It was another scrum that really rubberstamped UCT's superiority, though. A huge effort saw the pack rumble over the try-line allowing eighthman Michael Botha to drop down and finish a stunning pushover try. Grant's assured boot took the scores to 20-0 and put one UCT foot in the final.
Maties eventually managed to replace the zero on the scoreboard, taking advantage of a yellow card for UCT captain Liam Slatem to score a converted try in the in the corner. Stellenbosch scrumhalf Jean Nel broke smartly from a rolling maul, for once catching the defence on the back foot.
It was a mere consolation effort, though, as UCT booked a place in their third Varsity Cup final by sealing a satisfying double over its arch-rivals. Coach Kevin Musikanth celebrated with his team and their supporters, and not even the weather could rain on their victory parade.
UCT will face NWU-Pukke in the final at the Fanie du Toit Stadium on 7 April at 19h00.
Ikeys last took home the Varsity Cup trophy in 2011. Watch the highlights below.
Story by Yusuf Omar. Image by Luigi Bennet.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
Please view the republishing articles page for more information.