Shimlas win the 2024 Varsity Cup in dramatic style

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2024 Varsity Cup champions. PHOTO: Hannes Naudé/Asem Engage

The University of the Free State Shimlas won an epic Varsity Cup final in the most dramatic fashion of Monday night as they beat the University of Cape Town Ikeys right at the death.

The final at a capacity Shimla Park in Bloemfontein was heading to extra time when the Shimlas flyhalf converted a late clutch penalty for a 45-42 win to see the team in royal blue jersey win the Varsity Cup for a second time.

The Ikeys, who lost last year’s final as well, were fast out of the blocks with the hooker Keagan Blanckenberg and centre Jonathan Roche each scoring a try to see the visitors race to a 14-0 lead after just 8 minutes.

However, the Shimlas struck back Jandré Nel and Liyema Mgwigwi each scoring the first of their respective braces. The Ikeys got their third try against the run of play when the winger, Rethabile Louw, intercepted a Shimlas ball and ran close to 70 metres for a point-of-origin try.

A sensational dummy by Nel saw the Shimlas flyhalf, Ethan Wentzel, stroll in for his converted try, before Duran Koevort cut through the defence of the home side for their fourth score.

Four minutes past the half time hooter, Mgwigwi, dotted down for his brace and a very important try to keep the Shimlas in the game.

Shortly after the break, Nel produced a piece of individual magic with a point-of-origin try to see the Shimlas take the lead for the first time. Siviwe Zondani then rounded off a beautiful point-of-origin team try which put the pressure on the visitors.

With minutes left to play, Bryan le Roux scored for the Ikeys from a lineout maul, but Ntokozo Makhaza missed the conversion which could have given them the win.

Three minutes past the full time mark, relentless pressure forced the Ikeys into conceding a kickable penalty which Wentzel made no mistake in sending through the uprights for the win.

The Shimlas captain, Pierre Uys, told OFM Sport that he couldn’t be prouder of his chargers and it was their destiny to win the 2024 Varsity Cup.

“I couldn’t be prouder and I don’t even have words to describe it,” said Uys.

“The thing is, it’s not just the 23 players that played, but it’s the 40 players in the squad that trains with us every day. They give us defence when we are attacking etc. and it was not just a 23-man job.

“I’m so proud of the boys and the season feels like it was our season and it was meant to be.”

For his efforts on the park, Nel was named as the Player that Rocked for a third time in the competition.

Scorers:

Shimlas: Tries – Jandré Nel 2, Liyema Mgwigwi 2, Ethan Wentzel, Siviwe Zondani (7-point), Conv. – Ethan Wentzel 4 Pen. – Wentzel

Ikeys: Tries – Keagan Blanckenberg, Jonathan Roche, Rethabile Louw (7-point), Duran Koevort, Bryan le Roux Conv. – Ntokozo Makhaza 3 Pen. – Makhaza 3

 

Morgan Piek