Johannesburg – The NMMU Madibaz avenged their semi-final defeat to Maties from last year by beating the three-time Varsity Cup champions 45-29 in their opening match in Port Elizabeth on Monday.
It was the perfect start to the tournament for the Eastern Cape side, as they ran in six tries to claim a comprehensive bonus-point victory.
Madibaz openside flank Chris Cloete scored five tries, with four coming from driving mauls.
Despite conceding four tries to Maties it was a dominant performance that will serve as an ominous warning to the rest of the teams in the competition.
The home side made a strong start, surging into the Maties 22
and captain Roy Godfrey was rewarded for his decision to kick for the corner when Cloete crashed over for the opening try from a driving maul.
The visitors battled for possession, and it was not long before Cloete went over for his brace from another driving maul.
The touchline conversion from flyhalf Gavin Hauptfleisch split the uprights to give the Madibaz a healthy 13-0 lead, leaving Maties firmly on the backfoot.
The team from Stellenbosch managed to string some attacking phases together as they moved into the opposition 22, but NMMU's defence held up well to keep them scoreless at the first strategy break.
Maties continued their onslaught in Madibaz territory after the break, which resulted in one of the two referees having a chat with Godfrey about his team's discipline.
Instead it was NMMU that scored next, with big eighthman Tim Agaba showing some impressive footwork to step through the Maties defence and cruise over for a try that inflated his side's lead to 21-0.
They took that lead into the half-time break, leaving Maties with it all to do in the second half after being thoroughly outplayed in the opening 40 minutes.
Maties started the second half with purpose as they looked for a way back into the match, but instead Cloete crashed over for his hat-trick try from another driving maul.
The touchline conversion from Hauptfleisch made it 29-0, leaving Maties staring down the barrel of a heavy defeat in the opening round.
The visitors finally responded with a try of their own through centre Mark Hodgskiss, who dotted down under the poles after a period of sustained pressure to get his team on the board.
However, NMMU struck back immediately through the prolific Cloete who scored his fourth try to give his side a formidable 37-8 advantage in the second strategy break.
Maties suffered a further setback shortly afterwards when replacement flank Lungelo Chonco was shown a yellow card for collapsing a maul, and Cloete was on hand for his fifth try which extended the lead to 45-8.
The visitors responded with three late tries from wing Clearance Khumalo, replacement lock Renier Ehlers and Hodgkiss who dove over in the last minute to salvage a bonus point for his side.
Scorers: NMMU Madibaz 45 (21): Tries: Chris Cloete (5), Tim Agaba. Conversions: Gavin Hauptfleisch (5).
Maties 29 (0): Tries: Mark Hodgkiss (2), Clearance Khumalo, Renier Ehlers. Conversions: Chris Smith, Robert du Preez (2). – Sapa