Edwill van der Merwe scored a hat-trick to help Maties claim a 43-15 win over NWU in Stellenbosch on Monday. DYLAN JACK reports.
While Maties did not have it all their own way in this crucial clash, especially in the first half, they utilised their opportunities far better to once again hand their rivals a heavy defeat at the Danie Craven Stadium.
The match was different to last year’s final in that NWU were actually better on Monday night, but it should be a warning to Maties’ other title rivals that Jonathan Mokuena’s team were comfortably dealt with.
NWU did not get off to the best of starts, giving away a turnover near their own line from the kick-off, which Maties capitalised on when HJ Luus drove over the line.
The Potchefstroom side did regroup and put some pressure on, but found themselves further behind when Maties counter-attacked and won a penalty that Jordan Chait converted.
Maties were winning the breakdown battle and creating turnovers almost at will, but while doing so also conceded a few penalties, one of which Schalk Hugo kicked to make it a seven-point game. The hosts enjoyed the majority of attacking play, with both Chait and scrumhalf Logan Boonzaaier making linebreaks.
A second breakthrough came when centre Chris Smit put in a perfectly weighted cross-field chip, which was plucked from the air by Van der Merwe, who stepped past his man to score a seven-point try.
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The visitors managed to claw their way back into the match, and a clever lineout move saw flank Gideon van der Merwe break from behind a maul and power his way over, with Hugo’s conversion reducing the deficit to nine points.
Chait knocked over his second penalty on the stroke of half-time to increase the home side’s lead to 12 points at the break.
The Maroon Machine picked up where they left off in the second half, with some fine work from Cornel Smit and Anton du Toit setting up Edwill van der Merwe for his second of the evening.
The Western Province winger got his third in a very similar style as brilliant hands from the backline found him out wide and he sprinted clear for his hat-trick, which also made him the top try-scorer in Varsity Cup history.
NWU did not help themselves with some strange decision-making under pressure in their own 22, often opting to run the ball against the physical Maties defence.
The defending champions scored a fifth try, from replacement hooker Dan Jooste, before NWU took advantage of a late yellow card to Ben-Jason Dixon to get a consolation score through Wian Conradie.
Maties – Tries: HJ Luus, Edwill van der Merwe (3), Dan Jooste. Conversions: Jordan Chait (3), Reinhardt Fortuin. Penalties: Chait (3).
NWU – Tries: Gideon van der Merwe, Wian Conradie. Conversions: Schalk Hugo. Penalty: Hugo.
Maties – 15 Anton du Toit, 14 Munier Hartzenberg, 13 Cornel Smit, 12 Chris Smit, 11 Edwill van der Merwe, 10 Jordan Chait, 9 Logan Boonzaaier 8 Joa Swart, 7 Ben-Jason Dixon, 6 Johann van Niekerk, 5 Zirk Jansen, 4 Ernst van Rhyn (c), 3 Sazi Sandi, 2 HJ Luus , 1 Wayrin Losper.
Subs: 16 Dan Jooste, 17 Ricky Nwagbara, 18 Piet Strauss, 19 Jesse Johnson, 20 Mitchell Carstens, 21 Brendon Nell, 22 Reinhardt Fortuin, 23 David Brits.
NWU – 15 Shane van Rooyen, 14 Lincoln Daniels, 13 Evardi Boshof, 12 AK Nela, 11 Lungelo Gosa, 10 Schalk Hugo, 9 Eugene Hare, 8 Wian Conradie, 7 Muziwandile Mazibuko, 6 Gideon van der Merwe, 5 Jan du Plooy, 4 Johan Retief, 3 Robert Hunt, 2 Louis van der Westhuizen (c), 1 Tshegofatso Moloto.
Subs: 16 Marius Stander, 17 Nelius Theron, 18 Matimu Manganyi, 19 Reuben du Plooy, 20 Lucky Mkhize, 21 Sylvester Hassien, 22 BF van Staden, 23 AP van Niekerk.
Photo: Thys Lombard