The exciting first half produced five tries with Tuks outscoring UJ by three tries to two.
The second half proved to be a tense and physical war of attrition, with neither side able to deliver the knockout blow and both failing to capitalise on several points-scoring opportunities.
The visitors showed no signs of rust early on as they strung together numerous phases. They got their reward in the fifth minute as lock David Antonites stretched over to score the opening try, with fullback Marais Schmidt adding the conversion.
Schmidt was yellow-carded moments later for a deliberate knock down but a 14-man UJ thwarted the immediate danger through a much-needed turnover.
Concerted pressure by Tuks finally took its toll and flank Rudolph Smith burrowed over from close quarters to put the hosts on the board.
Exciting fullback Warrick Gelant’s conversion was wide, which saw UJ lead 8-5 after the first quarter.
Good backline play almost resulted in a quick second try for the hosts, but the UJ cover defence was able to force left wing Kefentse Mahlo into touch.
The Johannesburg side made a meal of the lineout and got pushed off the ball at a scrum deep inside their 22, and Tuks capitalised as quick hands led to Gelant crashing over. The fullback failed to convert his own try, but Tuks were 10-8 up.
In an exciting end to the first half, the lead changed hands twice before the teams finished deadlocked at 18-18 at the break.
First, UJ captain Jacques Pretorius nearly scored from a quick tap when he stretched for the line in contact.
The scrumhalf was short of the line but the ball was adjudged to have gone backwards and outside centre Robert de Bruyn was on hand to scoop up the ball and dot down for the try.
A great chase by Jade Stighling put UJ under pressure from the restart and Tuks struck with centre Rohan Janse van Rensburg running a sublime line and Gelant adding the conversion.
Schmidt had the final say of the half, though, as he slotted a penalty on the stroke of half-time to square the ledger.
The tension was palpable as the match entered the final five minutes with the teams still all square.
Van der Walt looked to snatch victory as he lined up an ambitious shot at goal from 61 metres out in the last play of the game and struck it beautifully.
However, his kick fell just underneath the crossbar and the game ended in a draw.
UP-Tuks 18 (18): Tries: Rudolph Smith, Warren Gelant, Rohan Janse van Rensburg. Conversion: Gelant.
UJ 18 (18): Tries: David Antonites, Robert de Bruyn. Conversions: Marais Schmidt (2) Penalty: Schmidt.
* In yesterday’s other matches the NMMU Madibaz avenged their semifinal defeat to Maties from last year by beating the three-time Varsity Cup champions 45-29 in Port Elizabeth, while the UFS-Shimlas cruised to a comfortable 31-15 bonus-point victory over a determined Wits side in Bloemfontein. The NWU-Pukke opened their 2014 Varsity Cup campaign in clinical fashion as they beat the Ikey Tigers 47-24 in Cape Town.