Maties clinched their second Varsity Cup title with a 11-6 win over Pukke in a scrappy final in Stellenbosch.
The defending champions struggled to get going in the first half, but some smart work at the breakdown and solid defence in the second stanza saw Chean Roux’s men hang on to claim their second title in two years.
The game was far from the showpiece the 18 000 strong at the Danie Craven Stadium had hoped for, but in the end the Maties fans were the ones singing after 80 minutes.
In a tight and disjointed first half it was Pukke who got off to a good start and took the lead in only the second minute through a Cecil Dumond penalty. The visitors were playing some good percentage rugby albeit without much penetration.
It was only a matter of time until the hosts found their rhythm and after a good period of sustained pressure, Maties launched an attack from a scrum deep in Pukke’s half. The ball went quickly through the hands before reaching Morné Jooste out on the wing who stumbled before finishing in the corner for the only try of the game.
While Pukke looked good at lineout time, it was at the breakdown where their hard work was undone as the Maties’ forwards dominated the tackle point.
The difference between the two sides was the speed at which Stellenbosch were able to attack, which was down to the efficient work of their loose trio and the crisp distribution of scrumhalf Donald Stevens.
Pukke were still enjoying the bulk of the possession but had little to show for it as Maties’ defence stood strong. With time running out in the half a good kick and chase led to an attacking scrum for Pukke deep in Maties territory.
From the scrum the visitors managed to set up an overlap on the left, but fullback Willem Barnard butchered the chance to give his side the lead and Maties went into the break with a slim advantage.
The game started to open up in the second half, but as the ball was given more air, the error count began to mount on both sides and Pukke finally regained the lead through the boot of Dumond in the 49th minute.
Stellenbosch edged in front again through a cheeky drop goal from flyhalf Johan Sadie. The score seemed to reinvigorate the defending champions and they extended their lead just three minutes later through a Stevens penalty.
Maties’ forwards were beginning to stamp their authority on the game, but in most instances their hard work was undone by some sloppy handling.
With less then 10 minutes left in the game Pukke threw everything they had left at the hosts, but Roux’s men were up to the challenge as they kept the visitors at bay to hold on for the win.
In the curtain-raiser Armentum of Shimlas beat Dromedaris of the University of Johannesburg 30-16 in the Koshuis final.
By Andrew Worling, in Stellenbosch