Preview: UP-Tuks v Maties
VARSITY CUP FINAL: The 10th edition of the prestigious Varsity Cup tournament will come to a thrilling conclusion on Monday night when UP-Tuks host Maties in Pretoria.
Tuks received the honour of Final hosts after finishing on top of the table at the end of the round-robin phase before bagging a narrow 28-21 semi-final victory over Shimlas.
Maties finished second on the log, tied on points with Tuks and only separated by points difference, to play hosts to UJ in the other semifinal - a match they won 22-14 to advance to their second consecutive Final since Hawies Fourie took over the helm in Stellenbosch.
Both sides have been involved in the competition since its inception in 2008, where Maties claimed the first of three consecutive titles - they are still the most successful team in the competition with those titles and would be hoping to end their six-year dry spell.
"The guys have been working hard as I am sure Tuks have been too but I feel that the team who wants it more on Monday will take it.
"We are like family, the boys have formed a strong bond with each other and this, I feel, will give us that edge we need to pull it off," Maties captain Craig Barry said.
Tuks knows what it is like to claim back-to-back titles as their two titles came in 2012 and 2013 - interestingly enough against Maties on both occasions. Victory on Monday will see the Pretoria-based team become the second team to claim a total of three titles.
"This is what we have been building towards all season, wanting to make it into the Final. We have been working hard all season and the fact that we topped the log after the regular season means nothing in the playoffs.
"This is all that matters, to go out, make our family and supporters proud and to enjoy the game we all love," Tuks captain Chris Massyn said.
Maties have come out short of the title on three occasions - 2012, 2013 and 2016 - while Tuks have failed to take that extra step on one previous occasion - in 2011 where they lost to UCT-Ikeys.
Prediction: Maties knocked Tuks out of the 2016 competition with a resounding 49-11 victory in Stellenbosch but Tuks have the upper-hand this season as they claimed a narrow 13-9 victory in Pretoria in Round One of the 2017 edition. Maties have been unbeaten since that opening round defeat while Tuks' solitary defeat came in Round Four but have been in excellent form since then. The general consensus among the other participating coaches is the Tuks has a slight edge based on home ground advantage. However, it has been a while since they have been in a Final and Maties still has fresh memories of their last-second defeat at the hands of Pukke last season. It is for that reason that we feel Maties has the mental edge and will win by three points.
UP-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 (captain), 6 Marco van Staden, 5 Aston Fortuin, 4 Bryan Leitch, 3 Neethling Fouche, 2 Els Corniel, 1 Andrew Beerwinkel.
Replacements: 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 (captain), 10 Theo Stapelberg, 9 Brendon Nell, 8 Devon Nash, 7 Kobus van Dyk, 6 Mitchell Carstens, 5 Johan Momsen, 4 Ian Groenewald, 3 Niel Oelofse, 2 Craig Corbett, 1 Wesley Adonis.
Replacements: 16 Hendrik Luus, 17 Ricky Ngwabara, 18 Wikus Groenewald, 19 Ruben de Villiers, 20 Stephan Streicher, 21 Remu Malan, 22 Chris Smith, 23 Duncan Saal.
Referee: Jaco Pretorius
Assistant referees: Paul Mente, Lesego Legoete