When it comes to rugby, the University of Stellenbosch expects success, so the first teamâ€™s shock defeat to Progress at the 2006 National Club Championship was nothing short of a disaster. What made the loss at the Danie Craven Stadium even more surprising is that Progress were one of two black clubs invited to participate alongside the 14 provincial champions and werenâ€™t tipped to get past the first round of the main draw.
As defending champions, Maties were expected to win their opening game comfortably. Instead, it was the Eastern Province club that staged a remarkable late comeback, securing a 24-21 win with a penalty just before full-time. To their credit, Maties recovered from that loss to win the Plate competition by beating Nelson Mandela Metropole University 45-10 in the final, but it came as little consolation to a club used to contesting the big prize.
However, 2006 was still a successful season for Maties. The first team won the Western Province Super League, including the Grand Challenge Cup (awarded to the team at the top of the log after the first round) for the 10th season in a row. In the end, Maties had Victorians (Stellenbosch Universityâ€™s 2nd XV) to thank for their Super League title. UCT needed to beat Victorians with a bonus point to finish above Maties on the log and take the title to Cape Town for the first time in 33 years. But Vics did their senior side a massive favour by beating UCT 27-12 at the Danie Craven Stadium.
Maties, with 69 log points from their 18 games, had once again finished ahead of their archrivals (who ended up with 65). UCT reacted furiously to the result, insisting that Stellenbosch should not be allowed to have two teams in the competition. Maties also claimed silverware in the abbreviated form of the game when they won the Roma Sevens tournament in Italy. The national sides
of Spain, Croatia and Italy took part, as well as teams from New Zealand, Argentina and France.
Maties thrashed French side Languedoc 40-10 in the final, for their sixth consecutive victory at the event. They scored 189 points overall, while conceding just 31, and scored 27 tries at an average of 4.5 a game. In other notable achievements, three Maties â€“ Schalk Burger, Jean de Villiers and Breyton Paulse â€“ represented the Springboks in 2006.
Although itâ€™s virtually impossible these days for international rugby players to turn out for their clubs, De Villiers made a couple of rare appearances in a Maties shirt as he attempted to fight his way back into the Bok side after damaging his ribs against Scotland. Not long after, the centre was back in a Bok jersey for the home leg of the Tri-Nations.
Maties also had 18 players in the Western Province Currie Cup squad and 11 in the Stormers Super 14 squad. Pieter Louw and Morgan Newman were selected for the SA U21 side that reached the World Championship final in France, with Gio Aplon and Sarel Potgieter representing the Springbok Sevens side.
While several players had an outstanding season for Maties, it was Bennie Booysen who was deservedly named Player of the Year. The 1.90m, 100kg flanker from Boland Landbou has already represented Western Province at U19 and Sevens level. In their bid to dominate South African club rugby, Maties announced in January the appointment of SA U21 coach Peter de Villiers as a rugby
consultant. De Villiers, who was supposed to coach the Southern Spears in the Super 14 this year, will be a mentor, strategic analyst, adviser and coach. He will also be involved in community interaction programmes involving rugby.
â€˜The timing of his involvement with coaching at the club is perfect,â€™ says Maties chairperson Jurie Roux. â€˜We have a group of young coaches as well as a relatively young coach of the first team, [former WP loose forward] Chean Roux. In the past two years, Chean has been very successful and the first team performed extremely well. He has a very bright future ahead of him, and Peter can play an invaluable part in helping him take the step towards becoming a provincial coach.â€™ Maties will also hope itâ€™s a step towards regaining their national crown in 2007.