Varsity Cup final: Tuks vs Maties (preview)

GARETH DUNCAN analyses Monday night’s Varsity Cup final in Pretoria.

Over 14 000 fans are expected to show up for the highly-anticipated Varsity Cup title decider to be played at Tuks Rugby Stadium. The fifth tournament final will see Tuks host the unbeaten Maties.

This clash is an accurate summary of this year’s tournament as these two universities have been the in-form teams during the campaign. Maties, who suffered a disappointing campaign last year, won six and drew one of their seven fixtures, while 2011 losing finalists Tuks won six of their seven league matches. The latter’s only defeat was a 23-22 loss to the Stellenbosch team at Danie Craven Stadium in February.

Tuks have challenged well in the forwards battle and their backs have thrived with this platform set, but Maties have proved to have the most dominant pack in the competition this season, and there’s plenty of quality among their backs to trouble opposition defences. Whoever holds the ascendancy up front will go on to achieve victory.

A historic tournament overview between these two sides see Maties holding the better record as they have beaten Tuks four times in seven matches. Tuks have won two other clashes while there was one draw in 2008.

However, Tuks captain and hooker Zane Botha is confident that his charges can clinch their first Varsity Cup title, especially after falling short against UCT in last season’s final.

‘We deserve to be where we are this year,’ said Botha. ‘We ended top of the log, we won our semi-final and it’s our right to host the final in front of our home fans. We’re really looking forward to it.’

Botha added that they are prepared for a physical encounter against the visitors.

‘It’s [a physical game] what you always expect against the Maties. There’s no such thing as a weak Maties side, excellence is in their culture.’

Maties head coach Chean Roux revealed that his team have also done their homework and have certain tactics in place.

‘As a coaching team we couldn’t possibly do any more… I mean, we know what to expect and I’m pretty sure Tuks will know that we’ll know what to expect,’ said Roux.

‘All we can do as a team is get our execution right and ensure that we stop their momentum. They have two major strings to their bow – their momentum and their kicking game, we need to stop them both, although it won’t be easy against a teaTukm that’s been playing the same game – and doing it very well – for the past two seasons.’

Tuks – 15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Deon Helberg, 13 Jerome Pretorius, 12 Dabeon Draghoender, 11 Hayden Groepes, 10 Wesley Dunlop, 9 Lohan Jacobs, 8 Jono Ross, 7 Jacques Verwey, 6 Okkie Kruger, 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Mike Williams, 3 Grant Kemp, 2 Zane Botha (c), 1 Sabelo Nhlapo.
Subs: 16 Kurt Haupt, 17 Juan Schoeman, 18 Sthembiso Mlongo, 19 Wiaan Liebenberg, 20 Rudi van Rooyen, 21 Willie du Plessis, 22 Courtnall Skosan, 23 Basil Short.

Maties - 15 André Smith, 14 Ryan Nell, 13 Wessel Coetzee, 12 Louis Jordaan,
11 Dean Hammond, 10 André Kemp, 9 Donald Stevens, 8 Grant Hattingh, 7 Helmut Lehmann (c), 6 Sam Mabombo, 5 Hugo Kloppers, 4 Reniel Hugo, 3 Os Hamman, 2 Rob Herring, 1 Alistair Vermaak.
Subs: 16 Alfred Ries, 17 Brummer Badenhorst, 18 JP Swanepoel, 19 Nicholas de Jager, 20 Boela Abrahams, 21 Jarryd Buys, 22 Clearance Khumalo, 23 Hein van der Merwe.

Keo.co.za predicition: Maties by 8