Maties will host UP-Tuks in the final of the 2022 Varsity Cup at the Danie Craven Stadium in Stellenbosch on Monday, 25 April.
Kick-off is scheduled for 19:00.
Maties will feed off the energy at their home supporters while UP-Tuks will lean on a pragmatic game plan in the match.
Ahead of the semi-finals, you would have been forgiven for thinking that the Varsity Cup decider would be contested by Shimlas and UCT Ikeys at Shimla Park.
Over the course of the league phase, André Tredoux’s charges played the most breathtaking brand of rugby, while Tom Dawson-Squibb’s side showed similar intent and ambition.
Yet here we are, on the day of the final, assessing the chances of two unilkely – albeit wholly deserving – title contenders: Maties and UP-Tuks.
Maties made a statement in the 58-19 semi-final win against the Ikeys in Cape Town. After losing heavily to their arch-rivals and Shimlas during the league phase, the Stellenbosch students certainly proved that they have what it takes to beat the better sides in the tournament.
Maties have already beaten UP-Tuks once this season. A lot has changed since that fixture, though, and it’s fair to say that Nico Luus’ side is peaking at the right time.
UP-Tuks have relied on the power of their pack and defensive line to win matches. The pressure exerted via their aggressive defence, and their accurate kicking game, has created scoring chances.
Last week, they kept a more fancied Shimlas side scoreless in the second stanza, and ultimately won the semi-final in Bloemfontein 29-20. Much like the Springboks, UP-Tuks have the game plan to win big playoffs and trophies
It will be interesting to see how Maties respond to that type of challenge. They have the pack to meet UP-Tuks head-on – hooker Sean Swart’s try tally of 12 is a testament to the potency of the Maties lineout and maul – but it remains to be seen how they will deploy their backs.
UP-Tuks boast a strong kicking game. Scrumhalf Bernard van der Linde, flyhalf Walter Visser and fullback Stefan Coetzee will work together to win the territorial battle for their side.
Nevaldo Fleurs has been retained at flyhalf despite the return of regular pivot Adriaan van der Bank – who has slotted in at fullback. Whether Maties decide to engage with UP-Tuks in a kicking battle or not remains to be seen.
When you speak to the players, all of them acknowledge the crowd – and the energy of the home supporters in particular – as a key factor.
The Danie Craven Stadium will be packed to the rafters with partisan fans on Monday night. While Maties will need to prevail in a series of mini-battles on the field to win the war, their campaign will be enhanced significantly by home advantage. As the stats suggest, Maties rarely lose big games at the DC.
That said, few people gave UP-Tuks any hope ahead of their semi-final showdown with Shimlas. They certainly have the personnel as well as the game plan to score another big upset – and a record-equalling fifth title.
Who is your money on?
VARSITY CUP FINAL TEAMS
15 Adriaan van der Bank (captain), 14 Mike Mavovana, 13 Waqar Solaan, 12 Taigh Schoor, 11 Anton du Toit, 10 Nevaldo Fleurs, 9 Thomas Bursey, 8 Simon Miller, 7 Louw Nel, 6 Gift Dlamini, 5 Matt Gray, 4 Juan Beukes, 3 Matimu Manganyi, 2 Sean Swart, 1 Vernon Matongo
Substitutes: 16 Chris Rossouw, 17 Rhynhardt Rijnsburger, 18 Corné Weilbach, 19 Jesse Johnson, 20 Siyabonga Matanda, 21 Mckyle Volmoer, 22 Jurie Mathee, 23 Marcqiewn Titus
15 Stefan Coetzee, 14 Kabelo Mokoena, 13 Zander Reynders, 12 Lincoln Daniels (captain), 11 Tharquinn Manuel, 10 Walter Visser, 9 Bernard van der Linde, 8 Orateng Koikanyang, 7 Stephan Smit, 6 Dian Schoonees, 5 Divan Venter, 4 Mihlali Stamper, 3 Francois Klopper, 2 Allister Williams, 1 Ethan Burger
Substitutes: 16 Werner Fourie, 17 André van der Merwe, 18 Daniël Wessels, 19 Justice Nkombua, 20 Hilton Gie, 21 Chad-Lee Valentine, 22 Keane Galant, 23 Ambesa Zenzile