STELLENBOSCH - The Maties have secured their spot in yet another FNB Varsity Cup presented by Steinhoff International final after narrowly defeating UJ 22-14 at Danie Craven Stadium on Monday evening.
After beating UJ comfortably last week, Maties were made to work much harder when the two sides met again. UJ put Maties under immense pressure in the first half, with their forwards asserting control over the Maties forwards. Dominant and powerful scrums meant UJ had the upper hand but unnecessary mistakes let the Joburg outfit down.
Maties backs looked more dangerous with ball in hand, with outside centre Michal Haznar in particular running strong lines as Maties had the majority of possession in the first half. Winger Kyle Steyn picked up where he left off last week by scoring the first and only try before the break, after Haznar broke through from his own half before offloading, resulting in a seven-point try for the men from Stellenbosch.
However, FNB UJ remained in the contest with their forwards. Numerous scrum penalties resulted in them getting points on the board through flyhalf Divan Nel who also slotted a drop goal. Ill-discipline towards the latter stages of the first half by UJ led to Maties adding to their total.
The second half started well for the home side when Craig Barry sniped through the UJ defence to score his ninth try of the season – the most by any Maties player in a single season. UJ, however, hit back through a try by replacement fullback, Ronald Brown, in the 63rd minute to make the game anybody’s to take.
Some tight defence by UJ in the final 10 minutes of the match meant they were still in with a chance and it took some last-gasp defending by the Maroon Machine to eventually win a penalty on their own tryline in the 80th minute.
UJ added to the tension when they played their white card after that penalty decision for Maties but it was unsuccessful as replacement flyhalf Chris Smith booted the ball into the stands to send FNB Maties to their sixth Varsity Cup final.
Maties will either play Tuks or FNB Shimlas in the final.