UKZN beat CUT for the second time this season to ensure that Wits - despite their final-round bye - and not CUT would finish the round robin phase of the inaugural Varsity Shield on top of the log.
The FNB UKZN Impi finished 24-22 victors in Pietermaritzburg - a result which means that FNB CUT will have to play the first-ever Varsity Shield Final away from home after they finished tied on log points but with an inferior points' difference in a thrilling climax to the round robin phase of this all-new competition.
FNB Fort Hare finished last after they went down 26-12 to FNB UWC in Bellville, with UKZN's impressive result propelling them past the Men from Alice on the log.
Fort Hare brought a travelling band of their loud and enthusiastic fans with them to Bellville and it seemed to have paid off as the team from the heart of the Eastern Cape took a slender 12-9 lead into the half-time break.
However, the home side ran in three unanswered tries in the second period to finish comfortable victors on the night and finish the all-new competition third on the log.
Inside centre Adrian Herman got two five-pointers in the second half and the prolific - and speedy - Anthony Volminck rounded off a solid performance with a late try to send the Fort Hare fans home disappointed.
The day's big result, however; saw UKZN pull off a thrilling win at home over CUT to do the double over their more fancied rivals this season. The Men from Pietermaritzburg pulled themselves off the bottom of the table with a determined performance in difficult conditions - much to Wits' delight no doubt!
The home team came out firing early on in the stormy conditions and got a converted try on the board as early as the fourth minute courtesy of a drive over from lock Gerrit Fourie.
However, CUT fought back hard and got on the board with a convertedFrancois Harvey try which drew the teams level. They followed that up with a penalty to fullback Andre le Roux and they went into the half-time break with a 10-7 lead.
The second half started with a bang for the home team as right wing Gareth Borchardt went over for a superbly worked try which was converted by Potgieter to take UKZN into the lead at 14-10, with Potgieter slotting a penalty soon after and extending the Impi's lead to 17-10.
CUT, realising that their bid for a home final in the Varsity Shield would require more work than just arriving at the game, clicked into gear and responded well with a good mauled try from Harvey, his second of the match.
The conversion was missed, however, leaving the team from Bloemfontein two points behind UKZN at 15-17 down.
UKZN responded well to the sustained pressure from CUT and camped in their opposition's 22 for around ten minutes. The home team finally converted the pressure with a try from prop Sizwe Kubheka which was superbly converted by fullback Potgieter to give the Impi a handy 24-15 lead.
As CUT saw their dreams of a home final disappearing, outside centre Jaco Oosthuizen scored a superb try to take the visitors to within two points of the Impi once more at 22-24.
But, with time running out, the home team managed to hold on for their third victory of the season, and second over CUT, to avoid the Wooden Spoon in dramatic fashion.
The scorers and teams from Monday, March 28:
FNB UWC 26 FNB Fort Hare 12
For FNB UWC:
Tries: Herman 2, Volminck
Con: Van Hollenhoven
Pens: Van Hollenhoven 3
For FNB Fort Hare:
Pens: Mateisi 4
UWC: 15 Ashley Kock, 14 Donovan Williams, 13 Warrick Rhoda, 12 Adrian Herman, 11 Anthony Volminck, 10 Charl van Vollenhoven, 9 Fredrick Muller, 8 Heinrich Marcus, 7 Griffith Temba, 6 Lwandile Makibi, 5 Kemsley Wesso, 4 Calvin Hendricks, 3 Zolani Faku, 2 Charlton van Jaarsveld, 1 Kelvin de Bruyn.
Replacements: 16 Rudi Diem, 17 Kieran James, 18 Chadwick Peterson, 19 Juan-Paul Kellerman, 20 Denzil Willemse, 21 Zenaldo Fredricks, 22 Justin Mckay, 23 Shane Coleridge.
Fort Hare: 15 Ayanda Mateisi, 14 Garth van Rayner, 13 Buntu Ntlanzi, 12 Lukhanyiso Magele, 11 Vuyo Mboto, 10 Saneliso Ngoma, 9 Sikhangele Mateza, 8 Thando Ndondo (captain), 7 Onke Dubase, 6 Nkosikhona Nofuma, 5 Sokhana Mkona, 4 Itumeleng Mokae, 3 Xola Mapapu, 2 Khwezilokusa Mkhafu, 1 Luvuyo Kama.
Replacements: 16 Vuyisani Mavuso, 17 Sive Ntwasa, 18 Matomela Mabhengu, 19 Sibabalwe Tshoni, 20 Sibabalwe Mtsulwana, 21 Qondani Katywa, 22 Thabo Ratyana, 23 Lukhanyiso Fana.
Referee: Petri Bosch
FNB UKZN 24 FNB CUT 22
For FNB UKZN:
Tries: Fourie, Borchardt, Kubheka
Cons: Potgieter 3
For FNB CUT:
Tries: Harvey 2, Oosthuizen
Cons: Le Roux 2
Pen: Le Roux
UKZN: 15 Jaco Potgieter, 14 Gareth Borchardt, 13 Willem Rheeder, 12 Wessel Booysen, 11 Kurt Mavrodaris, 10 Peter Grunow, 9 Zander Engelbrecht, 8 Kyle Ross, 7 Andre Greyvenstein, 6 Lwazi Ngcungama, 5 Chris Ndlovu, 4 Gerrit Fourie, 3 Sizwe Kubheka, 2 Justin Meanwell (captain), 1 Marc Colia.
Replacements: 16 Dayne Smith, 17 Luciando Santos, 18 Tinashe Bopoto, 19 Robert Warnock, 20 Calvin Channing, 21 Jake Adam, 22 Ricky Chirengende, 23 Mazisi Ostrich.
CUT: 15 Andre le Roux, 14 Alec Mhlanga, 13 Jaco Oosthuizen, 12 Maphelo Mpondo, 11 Nhlanganiso Sibanda, 10 Noel Marx, 9 Inus Kritzinger (captain), 8 Juan Hugo, 7 Henku van Zyl, 6 Francois Harvey, 5 Gavin Annadale, 4 Johan Klopper, 3 Petri Coetzee, 2 Deon Gouws, 1 Rudi Fuls.
Replacements: 16 Johan Meintjies, 17 Danie van der Merwe, 18 Anton Smit, 19 Frans Sisita, 20 Wally Cordier, 21 Leon Pretorius, 22 Egan Gysman, 23 Herson Amill.
Referee: Lusanda Jam