Tuks will go into the final at home with a slight psychological edge over their arch-rivals Maties after beating them during the season.
But it will count for nothing if they don’t make good the hard work it has taken them to have the luxury of playing on their home field, where they have been unbeaten this year.
As close as their last encounter was – ending 13-9 at a rain-drenched Loftus Versfeld in the opening round of the season – Tuks will go into this clash trying to equal Maties’ record of winning the competition three times.
The visitors will be desperate to extend their record to four titles in the 10th edition of the tournament.
Tuks captain Chris Massyn doesn’t believe that anything that happened in the past will count in Monday’s final in the capital, and it will be what his team do on the field that will earn them the title of champions.
“I don’t think what happened during the season will matter in the final. We will again need a clinical performance to ensure we win the title. They are a good side and showed it throughout the season. They will be up for the game, especially after what happened to them last year,” Massyn said.
Last year it was the Maties who were stunned at home in an epic final against Pukke as their fans suffered heartbreak in the dying moments of a game that went on for another nine minutes before Pukke scored the winning try.
The lessons from last season and surviving a testing semi-final against UJ will surely place Maties in good stead for their biggest litmus test since losing the final to Tuks in Stellenbosch four years ago.
Maties captain Craig Barry harbours no feelings of revenge as the sole survivor from that final, but believes his team are emotionally better off after last year’s lost final.
“I played in that final when Tuks beat us at home. Yes, it was tough losing at home, but I am over it. For us, it will all be about the final, and we are taking it like any other game. We can’t get emotional about it or try to do something different,” Barry said.
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“I think we learnt some lessons losing to Pukke last year. We will be emotionally strong to handle the game, as we know what is required of us. We don’t need any extra motivation.
“It doesn’t matter that we are playing them at their home ground, and how they have played leading up to the final. What is important is that we play the way we want to play, and make sure we are clinical in executing our plan.”
The final promises to be another epic battle between two of the best forward packs in the competition who not only thrive off set-piece dominance, but have also shown skill and intent with ball-in-hand.
The same goes for the backs, and even though Tuks will be without influential inside centre Impi Visser, they still have a lethal general in flyhalf Tinus de Beer, who orchestrates play exceptionally well.
Wing Sibahle Maxwane is also a major threat with his speed and ability to score tries with ease.
Maties have also shown a willingness to give the ball some air this season, but without deadly finisher Edwill van der Merwe out on the wing, they will have to rely heavily on the line-breaking runs of centre Michal Haznar.Sunday Independent