Hamilton win SAA Club Champs
Hamilton became the first open club since 2001 to win the SAA National Club Champs when they beat defending champions NWU-Pukke 36-34 (halftime 23-17) in a nailbiting and high-quality final played at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria on Saturday.
The Western Province champions and South Africa’s oldest club broke an eight-year stranglehold on the trophy by student teams, and in so doing capped off the most remarkable season in their 134-year history.
Their hero, as he had been all week, was scrumhalf Dustin Jinka, who put in a player-of-the-tournament performance in the final with 21 points via five penalties and three conversions.
The defending champions outscored Hammies by six tries to three, but their kicking let them down and it proved to be their undoing.
Hammies opened the scoring in the fifth minute when wing Terry Jacobs put his fullback, Elric van Vuuren, away for a try under the posts. Jinka added the extra points before Pukke opened their account with a driving try by flanker Savvas Nel.
Jinka kicked a 13th-minute penalty to open up a five-point lead but the defending champions drew level with a quarter of an hour played when centre Kempie Rautenbach slipped through on the right-hand side following good work by fullback Theuns Kotze.
But no sooner had play restarted than it was Hammies who were crossing for their second try, a galloping effort by lock Ashley Down that exposed the students’ midfield defence to make it 17-10.
Pukke scrumhalf Andries Mahoney again levelled matters in the 25th minute with a try under the posts that Kotze converted. The try confirmed the students’ territorial dominance but they could not make it count, whereas the Cape side put points on the board every time they went into their opponents’ half.
Jinka kicked his second penalty after 32 minutes to give his side back the lead before nailing another on the stroke of halftime to open up a six-point gap.
Replacement flyhalf Liaan Scriven then capitalised on poor Pukke play from the restart to score his side’s third try, which Jinka again converted, to make it 30-17 before kicking a fourth penalty to open up a 16-point gap.
Pukke weren’t about to give up their crown without a fight, however, and eighthman Willem van de Wal dived over from a lineout penalty with half an hour to play to give his side renewed hope.
The men from Potch then narrowed the deficit to just three points when prop Stefan Bezuidenhout drove over after 62 minutes after sustained pressure on the Hammies line. Kotze converted to send the match into a tense final 15 minutes.
Jinka, who scored 29 points in his side’s quarter-final victory over Pirates, made it a seven-point game from the kickoff with his fourth penalty as both sides looked for the score that would put them in control.
Pukke got their sixth try with six minutes to go when replacement back Willem Barnard dived over after endless recycles on the Hamilton line, but Kotze could not convert. 36-34. But the final drama was still to come: referee Stuart Berry gave Pukke a penalty on halfway with a minute remaining but they elected to kick for touch. With the seconds ticking away, Hammies however stole two lineouts in succession to seal the game and their most famous ever win.
Pukke 34 – Tries: Savvas Nel, Kempie Rautenbach, Andries Mahoney, Willem van de Wal, Stefan Bezuidenhout, Willem Barnard. Conversions: Theuns Kotze (2).
Hamilton 36 – Tries: Elric van Vuuren, Ashley Down, Liaan Scriven. Conversions: Dustin Jinka (3). Penalties: Jinka (5).
Team (15-1): Theuns Kotze, Jacques de Kock, Kempie Rautenbach, John Roodt, Johannes Seerane, Marcel du Toit, Andries Mahoney, Willem vd Wal, Savvas Nel, Jaco Lotter, Thabo Molete, Francois Robbertse, Stefan Bezuidenhout, Stoffel Duvenhage, Alfred Wauts. Replacements: BW van Dyk, Martin Dreyer, Johan de Kock, Nelis Nel, Janis Terblanche, Wouter Watermeyer, Willem Barnard.
Team (15-1): Elric van Vuuren, Terry Jacobs, Noel de Villiers, Clinton van Rensburg, Alshaun Bock, Pieter Benade, Dustin Jinka, Francois Prinsloo, Gerhard Voss, Thabane Sangwane, Jaco du Toit, Ashley Down, Bertus Smit, Louis Loubser, Hedley Wessels. Replacements: Vaughn Botha, Liaan Scriven, Hein Gordon, Stefan Greeff, Maurice Reed, JG Gilliomee, Eric Coetzee.
• Free State champions Shimlas won the Plate final, beating Pretoria Police.
Issued by SA Rugby