Momentum has swayed the way of Tuks in 2017, as their trophy cabinet fills up.
The Potchefstroom tertiary institute, North West University, claimed their first FNB Varsity Cup presented by Steinhoff International in 2016 when they beat three-time champions, FNB Maties in Stellenbosch. The win for FNB NWU-Pukke set in motion the first of three different intervarsity sporting titles. Later in the same year, it would be the turn of the netball team to add some silverware to the trophy cabinet in Potchefstroom after beating an impressive UP-Tuks side in Pretoria.
The fact that the home side headed into the final as the only unbeaten side made the NWU-Pukke victory even more monumental. But the Pukke still had enough left in the tank for one more trophy – the Varsity Cricket title. Hosting the third Varsity Cricket tournament in January 2017, NWU-Pukke were set for their third Varsity Sports championship. In similar fashion to their netball counterparts, Pukke came up against tournament favourites UP-Tuks in the final, which the former won in emphatic fashion and with that etching their name in the Varsity Cricket record books as the first to topple Tuks.
The confetti had barely hit the turf in Potch and the tenth Varsity Cup season got underway as the country’s ten best university rugby sides went head-to-head over 12 weeks. A few tournament favourites soon emerged including defending champions FNB NWU-Pukke, FNB Maties and FNB UP-Tuks. With just one loss, against FNB UJ, the Pretoria side comfortably occupied pole position on the log by the end of the regular phase of the competition. But would this be enough for them to become only the second side – other than FNB Maties – to have their names engraved on the trophy a record three times? Once again, a final was hosted in Pretoria. This time FNB UP-Tuks hosted FNB Maties, a team loaded with players who were members of the 2016 Varsity Cup final squad, in front of a packed LC de Villiers Stadium. The hosts headed into the game as the bookies’ favourite, but, despite this mantra hanging over them, Pote Human’s charges shutdown the men from Stellenbosch in all areas of the match on their way to a memorable victory.
Just a few weeks prior to the Varsity Cup final, the Tuks Athletics team dominated both meetings, in Potchefstroom and Pretoria. Tuks speedsters Thando Roto and Gift Leotlela along with Rikenette Steenkamp and 200m sensation Clarence Munyai ensured that the Pretoria-based university secured their second Varsity Sports trophy of the year. UP-Tuks edged NWU-Pukke by 525 points on their way to maintaining their remarkable tournament-winning form.
Weeks later the fifth edition of Varsity Hockey got underway in Stellenbosch. Each year the tournament alternates between men and women, and this year it was the turn of the ladies to do battle for the coveted title.
UP-Tuks’ only loss in their seven round robin matches came against old foe, NWU-Pukke, in round three at the Maties Astro Turf. The winners of the semi-finals, played a week later in Potchefstroom, placed the highest on the log would host the final one week later. Pretoria was once again treated to a final and it was a duplicate of the Varsity Cup final, where Maties were set to face-off against table-topping Tuks. Both sides had only lost one game, however for the Maties it was against UP-Tuks in round five in Potchefstroom. A deflected shot by Catherine Morris, off a penalty corner, found the back of the net. That was all that it took for the Jacaranda City side to claim their third trophy of the Varsity Sports calendar.
The domination in the last three national intervarsity competition suggests that the Tukkies are doing something right to ensure that all the athletes perform at a such a consistently high level. Having that mental edge when it is needed, especially in finals when BMT becomes their difference between silver and gold.
The Varsity Football season is just few weeks away and UP-Tuks are one of the better sides, having won the first two tournaments, in 2013 and 2014. One can’t help but think that they will be hoping to emulate their rugby colleagues in claiming their third title when the season starts on 27 July. UP-Tuks’ first match will be a good litmus test and possibly set the tone for the rest of the competition. The Pretoria-based side will travel to the TUT Stadium to face defending champions, TUT, in a scintillating derby encounter.
Will the momentum stay with the Stripe Generation, or is it time for another university to step up and create a legacy?