The Ikey Tigers came into the decider on a nine-match winning streak, but it was the hosts who won when it mattered most.
The opening 15 minutes saw a wall of defence, before Tuks prop Cebo Dlamini barged his way over the tryline. Ikeys counterpart Robert Hunt returned the favour in similar fashion eight minutes later.
Tuks fullback Zander du Plessis and UCT flyhalf James Tedder converted their respective efforts before an uncharacteristic error by the Tigers backs was scooped up by UP pivot David Coetzer. The ball was shifted into the breadbasket of Tuks captain and inside centre Sango Xamlashe, who tore down the left touchline to score a point-of-origin try.
Tedder cut into the deficit with a penalty goal just before the strategy break to keep UCT within touching distance.
A snap decision by Tuks' replacement scrumhalf Johan Mulder to snipe around the edge of a ruck was a masterstroke as it resulted in a try to prop Etienne Janeke - who was later named FNB Player That Rocks - after several phases.
Tedder left the field with a knee injury shortly afterwards to the collective groan of Cape Town. Yet another try after the first half hooter to flank Hanru Sirgel, converted by Du Plessis, eased Tuks in a 31-10 half-time lead.
The Tigers came roaring back in the second half. It took just three minutes for lock Byron Cranswick to profit off a powerful drive to score a try. Replacement flyhalf David Hayes was on target with the extras.
Tuks No 8 Jaco Bezuidenhout was shown a yellow for cynical play, leaving the men from Pretoria to scramble in the final minutes. The Ikeys finally took their opportunity out wide with fullback Athi Gazi who scored in the left corner.
Du Plessis slotted a penalty goal to ease the pressure, before Gazi applied it straight back with a second try. That ultimately proved to be a consolation try as FNB UP-Tuks were crowned 2021 champions.
FNB UCT – Tries: Robert Hunt, Byron Chanswick, Athi Gazi (2). Conversions: James Tedder, David Hayes. Penalty goal: Tedder.
FNB UP-Tuks – Tries: Cebo Dlamini, Sango Xamlashe (1x7), Etienne Janeke, Hanru Sirgel. Conversions: Zander du Plessis (3). Penalty goals: Du Plessis (2).
Meanwhile Cohen Jasper, CUT Ixias fullback, saw off the challenge of UWC flank Tinotenda Mavesere and UCT Ikeys flyhalf/fullback James Tedder in a public vote on the Overall Player That Rocks. Jasper scored seven tries including the Free Staters' match-winner in their first-ever victory over Maties.
Mavesere won the FNB Forward That Rocks award, seeing off the challenge of Maties' Ben-Jason Dixon and Ikeys' Niel Otto, while Maties wing Munier Hartzenberg was named FNB Back That Rocks, for which Ikeys centre Evardi Boshoff and Tuks fullback Zander du Plessis were also nominated.
2021 FNB Varsity Cup award winners:
Overall Player That Rocks: Cohen Jasper (Ixias)
Forward That Rocks: Tinotenda Mavesere (UWC)
Back That Rocks: Munier Hartzenberg (Maties)