UP-Tuks survived a second half fightback from UCT to claim a 34-27 victory in the Varsity Cup final at Tuks Stadium on Monday night.

It is Tuks’ fourth title, having previously won the competition in 2012, 2013 and 2017.

UCT came into the decider on a nine-match winning streak, excluding their cancelled Round 6 fixture against UP-Tuks, who suffered two defeats during the league stage of the tournament. But it was the hosts who won when it mattered most.

Carrying the underdog tag throughout the weekend allowed the Stripe Generation a touch more freedom to just go and play, and it resulted in several tries after the first half.

The Ikey Tigers’ ears should have been ringing after a tongue lashing due to their lacklustre performance in the first stanza and it took just three minutes for lock Byron Cranswick to profit off a powerful drive to score a try. Replacement flyhalf David Hayes was on target with the extras. 

However, it was the UP-Tuks forwards who dominated, forcing UCT to lose six lineouts while the hosts jackled five balls by the 66th minute. 

The Ikey Tigers finally took their opportunity as close-quarter fighting was whipped out wide to fullback Athi Gazi, who scored in the left corner. UP-Tuks No 8 Jaco Bezuidenhout was shown a yellow for cynical play, leaving the men from Pretoria to scramble in the final minutes. 

Despite facing immense pressure on defence, Tukkies earned a penalty attempt which Griquas-bound Du Plessis slotted with ease, before Gazi bagged his brace.

That ultimately proved to be a consolation try as UP-Tuks were crowned 2021 champions.