The University of Johannesburg scored a try in the final 10 minutes to seal a thrilling 29-24 win over rivals Wits in a Varsity Cup derby at UJ Stadium on Monday night.
With the win, UJ continues their incredible comeback to form this season under new head coach Jonathan Mokoena, after a tough 2021 where they finished bottom of the table.
To illustrate, UJ are now in contention for a playoff spot, although their main focus this year is to finish as high as possible as it is a promotion-relegation season.
Before kick-off, UJ sat in a precarious position as the ninth-seeded side on the 2021-22 University Cup Combined Log. As per tournament rules, teams that finish ninth and tenth at the end of this season will automatically be relegated to the Varsity Shield. The result sees UJ out of the relegation zone – for now. As part of the current season, they remain in search of a place in the semi-finals.
Despite having the best of the scrum, UJ struggled to retain possession and had to defend for long periods of the game. There was a notable period in the first half where the hosts saw 26 attacking moves from Wits before conceding a penalty.
Still, UJ were much more clinical in the first half and took a 14-3 lead in breakout tries from hooker Darnell Osuagwu and winger Ilunga Mukendi.
The closest Wits to scoring a first-half try came when scrum-half Hlumelo Ndudula appeared to put a finger on the ball over the try line, but TMO ruled it was a punch.
The second half belongs to Wits as, after Shaun Baxter extended UJ’s lead to 14 points with a penalty won by another dominant scrum, the visitors came into action. First, full-back Setshaba Mokoena, excellent with his control of the game from the back, scored a well-timed try before No.8 Phillip Krause passed from close range to suddenly level the scores at 17-17 .
Wits looked to have delivered a decisive blow when, after Mokoena had struck another 50/22, outside center Luhle Matyolweni scored his first try in the University Cup to put them ahead for the first time in the match.
However, UJ made the most of a penalty when a quick kick freed Likhaya Tengimfene and he slotted inside to put Kelvin Kanenungo over for a try at the home spot. Baxter converted from the touchline to allow UJ to regain the lead.
The dramatic finish continued as Wits won a penalty from the next kick-off to give himself one last chance to snatch it. However, true to character, UJ fought back tough and forced the knockout blow in time to claim bragging rights.
UJ- Essays: Darnell Osuagwu, Ilunga Mukendi, Kelvin Kanenungo. Conversions: Shaun-Christian Baxter (3). Penalty: Baxter (2).
The mind – Essays: Setshaba Mokoena, Phillip Krause, Luhle Matyolweni. Conversions: Chris Humphries (2). Penalty: Humphries.
UJ- 15 Nqubeko Mkwanazi, 14 Likhaya Tengimfene, 13 Musawenkosi Tshabalala, 12 Indiphile Tyeda, 11 Ilunga Mukendi, 10 Shaun Baxter, 9 Mpho Kubheka, 8 Kelvin Kanenungo (cc), 7 CJ Masuku, 6 Johannes Terblanche (cc), 5 Brendon Pawson, 4 Philip Apea-Adu, 3 Frans Bezuidenhout, 2 Darnell Osuagwu, 1 Kayden Kiewit.
Subs: 16 Hloni Mphuthi, 17 Elizee Kwitonda, 18 Ntokozo Hlophe, 19 Connor van Buuren, 20 Babalo Makana, 21 Buhlebenkosi Qaba, 22 Kgothatso Sono, 23 Rowan Malgas.
The mind – 15 Setshaba Mokoena, 14 Wian de Lange, 13 Luhle Matyolweni, 12 Tiaan Schutte, 11 Azi Afrika, 10 Chris Humphries, 9 Hlumelo Ndudula, 8 Phillip Krause, 7 Lindokuhle Ncusane, 6 Mark Snyman, 5 Edward White, 4 Cal Smid, 3 Ebot Buma (c), 2 Prince Mulea, 1 Jason Cloete.
Subs: 16 Dagan Meuwese, 17 Mikhaya Sonqishe, 18 Franco Groenewald, 19 Kyle van Eyssen, 20 Alexander Skudder, 21 Wernich Aucamp, 22 Keagan Lailvaux, 23 Siyabonga Xulu.
Photo: Christiaan Kotze/[email protected] AGENCY photo for Varsity/ Asem Engage