Maties coach Hawies Fourie says his side refused to talk about their title drought in the build-up to their 40-7 Varsity Cup final win against Pukke.
Prior to the game, much was said about Maties having failed to win the trophy in seven years as well as losing the final in 2016 and 2017 against Pukke and Tuks respectively.
However, Fourie told SARugbymag.co.za that the team approached the match with a positive mindset, refusing to be pressured by previous failures.
‘Credit must go to the whole coaching staff. We decided to take all the pressure away from the players as much as we could. We didn’t speak about the previous two finals.
‘We knew that everyone would ask about the past two years, but we instructed the players to get away from the question as quickly as possible.
‘It was a new team and a new season and we couldn’t do anything about the past. What we have learned is that we were a bit too tense before the finals. This year we decided to enjoy the preparation and enjoy the week leading up to the final.
‘We let the players be as calm as can be and that made a massive difference in our approach.’
Maties started the final well, dominating possession and territory, but were stifled by a well-drilled Pukke defence, before the visitors scored a try through captain Tiaan Bezuidenhout just before half-time to make it a three-point game. Fourie says that it was crucial to get the players to keep believing in the second half.
‘It was important to give the right message to the players at half-time, because I could see in their eyes that there was a bit of doubt. Pukke defended really well and we attacked with everything we had but couldn’t score. We had at least three very good scoring opportunities.
‘We let them focus again and let them know what we expect of them in the second half. We told them to continue doing what they were doing in the first half, but just make better decisions and have a bit more patience.’
The game changed in the first 10 minutes of the second half as first wing Edwill van der Merwe and then lock Ernst van Ryn went over to give Maties a crucial two-try buffer.
‘The mindset was really good in the second half. We got the players focused and told them that we wanted to attack from scrums and lineouts and they stuck to the plan. After that try from Edwill [van der Merwe], the shackles broke and they started to believe that they can win this,’ Fourie added.
Photo: Luke Thorrold/Varsity Cup