It was a thrill a minute at Shimla Park on Monday night when the FNB Shimlas came from behind to beat the winless FNB Pukke 37-28 - the first time the Shimlas have beaten the Pukke in the history of the Varsity Cup.
It was a game that started at great speed and ended at even greater speed and intensity. Throughout it was only the height of the excitement that varied.
It was also a match of rapidly changing fortunes. After 46 minutes the visiting team from Potchefstroom led 25-13 and victory looked certain. From then on it was just a matter of when the Shimlas would win. Even when the Pukke went back in the lead against the run of play, one still felt that the home side would really be the winners. And then there was the helter-skelter after the final siren.
Pukke came out with renewed determination after their troubled, humiliating campaign thus far and they scored first. They battered at the Shimla line till Cecil Dumond headed for the goalline. Tackled, he dutifully popped the ball to his captain and tall Ligtoring Landman was over for the try. Dumond converted. 7-0 after 8 minutes.
Shaun Davids had a most significant match. He of all his team caused the opponents trouble but his goalkicking, usually so reliable, became erratic. Early on it was fine and the young man from Daniël Pienaar in Uitenhage goaled a penalty. 7-3 after 12 minutes.
Back came the Pukke, winning quick ball at tackle after tackle and their mercurial centre Wouter Watermeyer darted over for a try. 12-3 to the dominating visitors.
The Pukke kicked into Shimla land and Davids started a counter-attack. He gave to Charl Weideman who set Zandre de Bruin running and there was right wing Jamba Ulengo flashing for the corner. He dived and Philip de Wet dived to stop him but Ulengo just managed to squeeze in for the try. Davids converted from touch. 12-10 after 21 minutes.
The way the play was running it was a surprise that the Shimlas were anywhere as close as that.
It was Shimlas' turn to attack but, bravely, Joe Seerane broke out, and Pukke were the next to score. It seemed so simple as they went right and passed to Cornel du Preez on the 22 but suddenly the strong eighthman was charging at the line. He was brought down just short but hooker JC Oberholzer picked up, twisted, plunged and scored. That made it 17-10 after 32 minutes.
Just before half-time Davids goaled a penalty. The siren to end the half sounded but the Pukke ignored it as they attacked from their own half. That is what the game was like - the players preferred to run and pass above all else.
Pukke scored twice in the first six minutes of the second half. First Dumond goaled a penalty and then, when lively Tiaan Dorfling was tackled late, Watermeyer tapped and gave to De Wet who powered over. 25-13 after the relatively easy conversion was missed. But it was a bonus point for the Pukke for their fourth try.
Suddenly the Shimlas came to life. They were sharper and more purposeful. They were helped when De Wet was sin-binned for a dangerous tackle. They kicked the subsequent penalty out for a five-metre line-out, mauled and lock Wilken Heyns scored. 25-18 after 54 minutes as Davids missed the conversion. Soon afterwards he missed an easy penalty but the Shimlas were on the go.
They battered at the line and Etienne Terblanche was over but held up. That gave the Shimlas a five-metre scrum. The Pukke were free-kicked and the Shimlas went far left where De Bruyn forced his way over in Dumond's tackle. He scored right in the left corner but Davids, after missing two easy kicks, converted this difficult one and the score was 25-all with 17 minutes to play.`
The Pukke made a rare incursion into Shimla territory. They threw over a line-out to Victor Kruger at the back and the lock charged at the Shimlas. Pukke attacked and the Shimlas were penalised under their posts. Dorfling kicked the goal and the Pukke led 28-25 with 13 minutes to play.
Davids missed a penalty kick at goal and then failed to find touch from a penalty but a penalty at a tackle gave his side a five-metre line-out. They bashed with might and main but then the Pukke won a fateful turnover. They passed back to Johnny Welthagen in his in-goal. He kicked but big Joubert Horn charged the kick down. The ball bounced gently for Ulengo who dived, grabbed it and scored next to the posts. 32-28 with seven minutes to play.
Now the Pukke found energy.
Big John-Roy Jenkinson ploughed down the middle of the field to set them on the attack but as time ran out the Shimlas played keep-ball.
The siren went and suddenly, in a flurry, the Shimlas lost the ball and the Pukke ran. They had a penalty and ran some more but the Shimlas were at them like terriers and then as they came left they dropped the ball. Heyns picked it up and the tall lock, finding energy from somewhere raced 46 metres to score, ending in a dive-fall. It took him a long time to get his hands off his knees and longer still to produce a smile.
For FNB Shimlas:
Tries: Ulengo 2, Heyns 2, De Bruyn
Cons: Davids 3
Pens: Davids 2
For FNB Pukke:
Tries: Landman, Watermeyer, Oberholzer, De Wet
Pens: Dumond, Dorfling
Shimlas: 15 Shaun Davids, 14 Jamba Ulengo, 13 Zandre de Bruin, 12 Charl Weideman, 11 Cameron Jacobs, 10 Jaco Colyn, 9 Enrico Acker, 8 Willie Britz (captain), 7 Pieter Labuschagnè, 6 Etienne Terblanche, 5 Joubert Horn, 4 Wilken Heyns, 3 Henry van Niekerk, 2 Hercu Liebenberg, 1 Ian Potgieter.
Replacements: 16 JC van Wyk, 17 Johan van Niekerk, 18 Frederick Ngoza, 19 Gerrit Theron, 20 George Whitehead, 21 Franna du Toit, 22 Earl Snyman, 23 Stephan Kotze.
Pukke: 15 Willem Barnard, 14 Andrew van Wyk, 13 Kempie Rautenbach, 12 Wouter Watermeyer, 11 Joe Seerane, 10 Cecil Dumond, 9 Tiaan Dorfling, 8 Cornel du Preez, 7 Philip de Wet, 6 Siya Mdaka, 5 Victor Kruger, 4 Ligtoring Landman (captain), 3 John-Roy Jenkinson, 2 JC Oberholzer, 1 Pens Sharneck.
Replacements: 16 Chris Schoonraad, 17 Snoepie Coetzee, 18 Thabo Mamojele, 19 Spanner Pretorius, 20 Johann Laker, 21 Johnny Welthagen, 22 Terswin Raubenheimer, 23 Mashudu Mafela.
Referee: Archie Sehlako
Assistant referees: Johan Wasserman, Sakkie Meyer
TMO: Shaun Veldsman
By Paul Dobson