Tuks will be looking to secure a record-equalling third title when they host Maties in the 10th Varsity Cup final on Easter Monday.
The stage is set for a grand finale between the competition’s most decorated teams. The finalists have won five titles between them, Maties three and Tuks two. They are also the only sides to have won the cup back-to-back.
In the 2017 tournament, Tuks pipped Maties 13-9 in the opening round in Pretoria, but there is little separating the sides heading into the final. Of the eight round-robin matches played, Maties and Tuks both won seven, lost one and collected six bonus points to finish with 34 log points. Tuks, however, topped the standings because they boasted a better point differential, which is the reason they get to host the final.
Maties captain Craig Barry, who was handed the armband after skipper Beyers de Villiers was forced into early retirement following a serious concussion injury, believes that the visitors have what it takes to claim their fourth trophy despite losing in two previous finals against Tuks.
‘The guys have been working hard, as I am sure Tuks have been too, but I feel that the team who wants it more on Monday will take it,’ said Barry. ‘We are like family, the boys have formed a strong bond among each other and this I feel will give us that edge we need to pull it off.’
Tuks captain Chris Massyn is adamant that talent won’t be enough to win.
‘This is what we have been building towards all season, wanting to make it into the final. We have been working hard all season and the fact that we topped the log after the regular season means nothing in the playoffs,’ Massyn explained.
While a lot will depend on the performances of sharpshooting flyhalves Tinus de Beer and Ernst Stapelberg, Tuks’ will need a big improvement in defence. Desite scoring 50 tries – the most in the competition – they average 11 missed tackles per game. To come out on top, coach Pote Human’s men will have to make their first-time tackles, especially against Maties’ potent backline players.
Tuks – 15 Manie Libbok, 14 Dewald Naude, 13 Divan Rossouw, 12 Joshua Stander, 11 Sibahle Maxwane, 10 Tinus De Beer, 9 Andre Warner, 8 Clyde Davids, 7 Chris Massyn (c), 6 Marco Van Staden, 5 Aston Fortuin, 4 Bryan Leitch, 3 Neethling Fouche, 2 Els Corniel, 1 Andrew Beerwinkel.
Subs: 16 Jan-Henning Campher, 17 Jaco Holtzhausen, 18 Marius Verwey, 19 Eduan Lubbe, 20 Theo Maree, 21 Toko Maebane, 22 Keanan van Wyk, 22 Franco van den Berg.
Maties – 15 Tiaan Swanepoel, 14 Kyle Steyn, 13 Michal Haznar, 12 Chris Smit, 11 Craig Barry (c), 10 Ernst Stapelberg, 9 Brendon Nell, 8 Devon Nash, 7 Kobus van Dyk, 6 Mitchell Carstens, 5 Johan Momsen, 4 Ian Groenewald, 3 Niel Oelofse, 2 Craig Corbett, 1 Wesley Adonis.
Subs: 16 HJ Luus, 17 Ricky Ngwabara, 18 Wikus Groenewald, 19 Ruben De Villiers, 20 Stephan Streicher, 21 Remu Malan, 22 Chris Smith, 23 Duncan Saal.
Photo: Varsity Cup/Saspa