The NMMU Madibaz made history when they qualified for their first-ever FNB Varsity Cup semifinal by beating defending champions UP-Tuks 13-7 in Port Elizabeth on Monday.
The hard-earned victory, which was their first against UP-Tuks, saw the Madibaz advance to the knock-out stage for the first time, edging out NWU-Pukke by the narrowest of margins on points difference.
NWU-Pukke staged an incredible fightback against the table-topping and untouchable Maties in Stellenbosch, with two late tries from wing Luther Obi earning them two bonus points in their 37-34 defeat, but it was not enough to move them past the Madibaz.
The Maties had cruised to a comfortable 24-0 lead in front of their home crowd, but NWU-Pukke refused to give in and came within a single conversion of making the semifinals.
Earlier on Monday, UJ staged a dramatic comeback of their own, as two late tries from scrumhalf Vian van der Watt saw them salvage an unlikely 26-26 draw with UFS-Shimlas in Johannesburg.
UJ had trailed 26-5 at one stage, but rallied to score 21 unanswered points against a UFS-Shimlas side that had two players sent to the sin bin in the last ten minutes.
That saw UJ take third place on the final standings, setting up an all-north semifinal showdown with UP-Tuks in Pretoria next week, while NMMU will travel to Stellenbosch to take on the unbeaten Maties in their coastal semifinal derby.
In Cape Town, 2011 champions UCT held off a determined FNB Wits side to secure their first win of the season which saw plenty of tries on the Green Mile.
Ikeys took a 42-0 lead into the halftime break, but Wits fought back admirably and pushed UCT right until the end, with the hosts eventually hanging on for an entertaining 50-40 win.
It was Wits’s first four-try bonus point of the season, and although they ended their campaign winless, their second-half display showed their characteristic fighting spirit.
In the Varsity Shield, CUT continued their unbeaten run with a comprehensive 36-12 victory over Fort Hare in Alice, and Peter de Villiers’s UWC side notched their first away win of the season, beating UKZN 36-13 in Pietermaritzburg.
This means that the match between UWC and Fort Hare next week in Bellville is effectively a semifinal, with the outcome of that game set to decide who faces the table-topping CUT in the final.
In the Young Guns competition Maties swept UJ aside, scoring seven tries in Stellenbosch to secure a 43-2 victory. Maties will face the UFS-Shimlas Young Guns in their semifinal, while defending champions UP-Tuks will take on the Ikeys in the other.
Finally, in the Steinhoff Koshuisrugby Championships, Steinhoff Villagers maintained their unbeaten status with a narrow 12-10 victory over Medies in Stellenbosch to set up a semifinal with Steinhoff Bastion who recorded a shock 32-29 victory over champions Vishuis who, in turn, will face Medies in the other Koshuis semifinal.