Maties lock Dillon Valentyn is tackled during a Varsity Cup match against CUT. Photo: Thys Lombard

Two of the best university rugby teams in the country will go toe-to-toe in Monday's Varsity Cup (VC) final.

In one corner there is Maties and the other Pukke, and with little between them the pair should dish up a great final.

Who will win the bout at the Danie Craven Stadium in Stellenbosch (kickoff 7pm) is anyone’s guess.

The two former champions had a go at each other in the final round of the Pool stage with Pukke doing the entertaining, the match ending 32-32.

Maties ended up topping the nine-team standings with an unbeaten record of six wins and two draws, while Pukke finished runners-up having lost only one of their eight outings, the loss was to two-time winners UCT.

Now for the finale to the 11th edition of the VC.

A repeat of the 2016 final that saw Pukke arrive from Potchefstroom as the underdogs and leave as champions for the first time after a stunning 7-6 victory in front of a capacity crowd of 17000.

It was another heartbreak again for Maties, who haven’t won a home final since completing a hat-trick of wins in 2010.

Did they choke?

Well, factor in that Maties have lost all four of the previous finals they contested (2012, 2013, 2016, 2017) and you then decide.

You can bank on one thing, the Maroon Machine will want to set the record straight.

They definitely have the personnel to complete the mission.

Their front eight led by inspirational skipper Chippie Oelofse will not shy away in the set-piece battles, nor the back seven marshalled by star flyhalf Chris Smith with each member able to pounce at any time.

Rightwing Duncan Saal has dotted down 10 times, for the most tries in the competition.

The picturesque Danie Craven will host the Varsity Cup final on Monday. Photo: Chris Ricco/BackpagePix

This is a side that has the scent of quality permeating through its ranks, it’s just a case of now delivering the telling blow.

“We’re as ready as can be,” said Maties coach Hawies Fourie, who added that “Pukke will be tough nuts to crack”.

“They have a physical pack and a skilful backline with a lot of speed. I expect them to make the game as quick and loose as possible.

“In Schalk Hugo they have a flyhalf who can kick with both feet and his ability to read the game and see space will test our back-three.

“Sure they'll come to us with memories of 2016 and want to repeat the feat, but we will never surrender our turf without an almighty fight, and we’ll put our bodies on the line for the cause.”

Pukke head coach Jonathan Mokuena says his side won’t be dwelling on 2016.

“For us it’s about creating a new legacy. Although 2016 was good, what we did in 2016 won’t count for much in this final.

“We need to forget about what happened in the past and focus on the opportunity that has present itself for us on Monday.

“It’s going to be a big challenge, but that’s what rugby is about, if you want to be the best you have to beat the best.”

Maties: 15 Reinardt Fortuin, 14 Duncan Saal, 13 Michal Haznar, 12 Chris Smit, 11 Edwill van der Merwe, 10 Christopher Smith, 9 Remu Malan, 8 Marno Redelinghuys, 7 Janco Venter, 6 Johan van Niekerk, 5 Johan Momsen, 4 Ernst van Rhyn, 3 Neethling Fouche, 2 Wilmar Arnoldi, 1 Chippie Oelofse (C)

Replacements: 16 Craig Corbett, 17 Ricky Nwagbara, 18 Piet-Louw Strauss, 19 Brandon Valentyn, 20 Stefan Streicher, 21 Brandon Nel, 22 Munier Hartzenberg, 23 Carlisle Nel

Pukke: 15 Tapiwa Mafura, 14 Jimmy Mpailane, 13 Evardi Boshoff, 12 AK Nela, 11 Dean Stokes, 10 Schalk Hugo, 9 Chriswill September, 8 Tiaan Bezuidenhout, 7 Estehan Visagie, 6 Gideon van der Merwe, 5 Walt Steenkamp, 4 Johan Retief, 3 Robert Hunt, 2 Louis van der Westhuizen, 1 Matimu Manganyi

Replacements: 16 Percy Mngadi, 17 Nelius Theron, 18 Theodore Ferreira, 19 Jaco Swanepoel, 20 Wandile Mazibuko, 21 Nkosana Mbatha, 22 Henko Marais, 23 Justin Newman

* Teams are subject to change until two hours before kick-off.

Weekend Argus