Maties didn’t just win their Varsity Cup final 34-12 against Tuks on Monday night – they owned it.
Going into the title decider, Maties were undefeated, while Tuks had only suffered one loss in their season – against the self-same Stellenbosch University outfit.
While no other team have featured in the premier university competition’s young history more prominently than Maties, Tuks went into the final with one stat in their favour – all three titles they’ve won have been against the Stellenbosch side.
But this final was different.
In the first half, Maties – who were in control throughout the opening half – capitalised on the opposition’s shortcomings, while effectively curbing their chances.
While the halftime score may not fully have alluded to it, Tuks just weren’t in the game until then.
They could consider themselves lucky for not trailing by more on the scoreboard.
Maties dominated all aspects of play, and got their first try through Johann van Niekerk.
After the strategy break, the hosts got their second.
You’d think that after witnessing its potency throughout the season, Tuks would have learnt to be well aware of Maties inside centre Chris Smit and his pinpoint accurate cross-kicking boot.
But no, he managed to nullify their defence as he sent a kick-pass to Munier Hartzenberg to run on to and score a converted try.
Just like it had throughout their undefeated season, Smit’s kicking game proved unpredictable and unstoppable, as he used it both as an attacking weapon and a means of gaining territory.
He was massive in the final and he had been massive throughout the season. So, it’s no surprise he bagged the Overall Player that Rocks award.
Tuks switched on towards the end of the third quarter, and in the 58th minute, after stringing together a good few phases, they showed some good hands as they drifted the ball to the left-hand corner, where Dewald Naude was waiting to pounce and add the finishing touches for an unconverted try.
Shortly after the second strategy break, the ball drifted out wide to Naude again to make it 21-12.
But just as Tuks got their game to flow, they went a man down...
Tuks were dealt a red card after a dangerous tackle, and even though Varsity Cup laws allow a team to bring on a different player after 15 minutes, it wouldn’t have helped Tuks much, unless the game went into extra time.
Jordan Chait added the penalty to stretch their lead to 24-12 in the 68th minute.
Maties showed that they weren’t going to let the game get away from them, despite a more spirited effort from Tuks when Hartzenberg chipped the ball ahead in the 22 after a Dave Brits intercept, before gathering to score a stunning converted try with nine minutes to go.
Chait, who was on goal-kicking duty for Maties, continued his solid penalty connection rate in his debut season when he landed another three-pointer for the defending champions with two minutes to go.
And while it’s a pity that the contest was influenced by a red card just as Tuks started to claw their way back into the contest, Maties deserved to win their fifth Varsity Cup title.
After all, they won every other battle in between.
Maties 34 – Tries: Johann van Niekerk (2) Munier Hartzenberg (2). Conversions: Jordan Chait (3). Penalties: Chait (2).
Tuks 12 – Tries: Dewald Naude (2). Conversion: Tinus de Beer (1).@WynonaLouw