In a tense and highly anticipated Cape derby, the home side, being the only unbeaten side in the competition this year, was pushed to their limits. A vibrant sold-out Operation Room meant every big hit and hand-off was cheered on by both UWC and CPUT supporters.
UWC, whose resilient and disciplined defensive efforts were standouts throughout the 2023 season, showed no signs of letting up despite a courageous effort from the CPUT side. Not many sides can claim they crossed the UWC try line more than once. Not only did CPUT cross the UWC try line twice, but they got within touching distance of claiming a historic victory.
Upfront, both packs of forwards were having a full go at each other. In the opening 20 minutes, a solo converted try separated the two teams. UWC's set pieces were clinical and they secured a solid platform to launch their potent attacks, but it was met with an equally disciplined CPUT defensive effort.
CPUT hooker Shakes Shasha’s yellow for a cynical infringement was the opportunity that allowed the home side to capitalise on the one-man advantage. The relentless attack after attack from UWC eventually paid off with them opening the scoring in the 14th minute. The try came courtesy of leading try scorer Mauritz Swart, with Conwill Conradie converting. [Watch the try here.]
The sides were evenly poised and some inspirational words from both Paul Treu and Alastair Theys during the first strategy break certainly inspired both sides.
Four minutes shy of halftime, CPUT got their first points when outside centre Iwaan Bloys stretched out his right arm to dot the ball down across the UWC whitewash. The visitors were disciplined in the build-up to their opening try with scrumhalf Hugan Engelbrecht quick to clear the ruck. Linton Maritz failed to convert, and UWC headed to the sheds leading 7-5.
A fired-up UWC came out all guns blazing in the second half, founding gaps with ease and making light work of handing off CPUT defenders.
Swart burrowed his way across the try line for the 11th time in the competition while an earlier try by fellow front rower Riaan van der Merwe handed the home side a 21-11 lead as play headed into the final quarter of the match.
Two penalty conversions, one apiece by Linton Maritz and replacement Ryan George, kept CPUT within touching distance of the home side. Conradie added a penalty of his own to set up an exciting final 10 minutes of the 2023 season. CPUT could however not close the gap.
MATCH FACTSFNB UWC 24 (7) – Tries: Mauritz Swart (2), Riaan van der Merwe. Conversions: Conwill Conradie (3). Penalty: Conradie.
FNB CPUT 18 (5) – Tries: Iwaan Bloys, Darren Alexander. Conversion: Ryan George. Penalties: Linton Maritz, George.
FNB Player That Rocks: Darren Alexander (CPUT)
FNB UWC Starting XV: 1 Christian Lamprecht (vice-captain), 2 Mauritz Swart, 3 Riaan van der Merwe, 4 Liam Tattersall, 5 Carel van der Merwe, 6 Almore Kuilders, 7 Bilaal Moerat, 8 Zinzan Magerman, 9 Conwill Conradie (captain), 10 Elkan Willemse, 11 Hlomla Ncana, 12 Bryan Breda, 13 Zhaun-Jacques Brynard, 14 Will Vraagom, 15 Ethan Diston.
Replacements: Keanuh Michaels, Emile Silvis, Matthew Stephens, Mihlali Tyanase, Brent Afrika, Lelethu Layita, James Coetzee, Shaquille Adams.
Head coach: Paul Treu
END-OF-SEASON AWARDSFNB Overall Player That Rocks: Conwill Conradie (UWC)
FNB Overall Forward That Rocks: Roland van der Heever (CPUT)
FNB Overall Back That Rocks: Conwill Conradie (UWC)
Suzuki Rookie of the Year: Hlomla Ncana (UWC)