Tuks beat Maties 28-21 at the LC de Villiers Stadium on Monday to secure a record-equalling third Varsity Cup title. MARIETTE ADAMS reports.
The 10th annual Varsity Cup came to a riveting conclusion in the nation’s capital. The hosts had been the form team in the competition, scoring the most tries and points, and yet heading into this contest, they were not clear-cut favourites. However, they forged ahead with great resolve to win, and draw level on three championships with Maties.
Most of the match build-up was shaped around the duel between flyhalves Tinus de Beer and Ernst Stapelberg, only for Maties to replace Stapelberg with Chris Smith just before kick-off. While it would be inaccurate to say the late change had a game-shaping influence on the result, it did contribute to De Beer winning the No 10 battle.
The Tuks playmaker stood up when the occasion demanded it. He added 13 points from the kicking tee – two conversions and three penalties – and produced a flawless tactical-kicking display to help Tuks play in the right areas of the field.
Tuks had a greater stake in territorial play and ball possession, dominated the lineouts and scrums, and broke the line on several occasions. But they could just not execute the final pass to get on the board.
Maties, living off scraps, then opened the scoring with a seven-point try by lock Jaco Venter, who latched onto a perfect inside pass from inside centre Chris Smit.
Tuks’ reply was instant as Maties conceded a penalty for obstruction from the restart. Flank and captain Chris Massyn barged over the line and De Beer converted to cut the deficit to two.
The kickers traded kicks twice before the break, which would have left Tuks pondering just how they were trailing.
Smith extended Maties’ lead with a penalty, but one of Tuks’ backline plays finally came off as they went over for a seven-point try. Spotting the space behind Maties’ defence, De Beer put in a perfectly executed chip kick over the top. Maties’ back three misjudged the bounce of the ball and outside centre Divan Rossouw pounced to go in under the posts. De Beer added the extras before stepping up to coolly slot two more penalties.
And while there was another successful penalty attempt by Smith, De Beer and Rossouw combined well to ensure most of the play took place in opposition territory, thus disallowing Maties decent field position from which to launch a significant attack.
The visitors did get a late penalty and they set a lineout after the siren had gone, but Tuks' sound defence forced an error and that was the ball game.
Tuks – Tries: Chris Massyn, Divan Rossouw. Conversions: Tinus de Beer (2). Penalties: De Beer (4).
Maties – Tries: Jaco Venter. Conversion: Chris Smith. Penalty: Chris Smith (3), Tiaan Swanepoel.
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 Chris Smith, 9 Brendon Nell, 8 Devon Nash, 7 Kobus van Dyk, 6 Mitchell Carstens, 5 Jaco Venter, 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: Anne Laing/HM Images