PREVIEW: VARSITY CUP FINAL
FNB Maties may be unbeaten in this year’s FNB Varsity Cup, but in FNB UP-Tuks they face Final opponents capable of denying them the fifth title they so desperately want.
FNB MATIES VS FNB UP-TUKS
(Danie Craven Stadium – Kick-off: 19:00)
FNB Maties are the dominant team of FNB Varsity Cup. Not only did they win every round-robin match this campaign (the third time they’ve done so) but Monday night’s final will be their record-extending ninth in the 12-year history of the competition. Of those they’ve won four titles (2008, 2009, 2010, 2018), which is another record they’re desperate to extend.
However, FNB UP-Tuks are no slouches themselves. They actually have a better finals record in that their three wins (2012, 2013 and 2017) came from five attempts. Most significantly, all three have come against ‘The Maroon Machine’, who they very nearly beat in this season’s Round Three clash.
“We underestimated them. There’s no excuse around it,” Maties captain Chris Massyn told varsitycup.co.za this week about that narrow 26-24 win.
Massyn, who captained UP-Tuks to their 2017 win before joining Maties last year as a postgrad student, is aiming for an unprecedented third straight title and to be the first to captain two winning teams. He, thus, is well aware of the strengths Nollis Marais’ boys will pose at Danie Craven Stadium.
“They have a strong kicking game and we will need to contain that,” Massyn said, mindful that UP-Tuks flyhalf Tinus de Beer became the tournament’s record point-scorer in the semifinals with 238.
“They also have a great scrum, great line-out and set piece. We will need to disrupt that to make our game a little easier.”
For their part, UP-Tuks know that they will have to be more clinical and focussed than they were in the earlier meeting. Even more so because Maties have only ever lost five times in Stellenbosch in Varsity Cup history.
“The thousands of fans definitely have the biggest impact; but we aren’t worried because we usually do well when we travel to Stellenbosch,” UP-Tuks captain Marius Verwey answered about Maties’ 56-48-3-5 ‘DC’ record.
Verwey points out that Maties have been ruthless about punishing lapses made by their opponents in 2019.
“They would want to take advantage of our mistakes and they are also seeking momentum. We must just make sure that we don’t give them any of that.”
Intriguingly, Maties coach Hawies Fourie has made seven changes to his 23 for the Final. The only forced changed is scrumhalf Remu Malan coming in for Logan Boonzaaier who injured his shoulder in the semifinal against FNB UFS Shimlas. Reinhardt Fortuin swapping with Anton du Toit at fullback is likely to strengthen Maties’ goalkicking as flyhalf Jordan Chait has been inconsistent in recent weeks.
Further starting XV changes sees Johann van Niekerk return from injury to reclaim the No.6 jersey, captain Massyn move to No.7 and Ben-Jason Dixon return to No.5 lock (at the expense of Jordan Sesink-Clee).
Among the replacements, tighthead prop Leon Lyons takes Ricky Nwagbara’s place and fullback Carlisle Nel takes Cornel Smit’s.
Marais, meanwhile, will have to do without two-try semifinal hero Ciaran Dayaram, with Irvin Ali swapping to leftwing and Dewald Naude returning from a niggle to regain his rightwing berth.
Both teams have been refereed by Paul Mente this campaign so should be familiar with his interpretation which leaves it all up to them to determine who the worthy winners of the 2019 Varsity Cup title will be.
Maties: 15 Reinhardt Fortuin, 14 Munier Hartzenberg, 13 David Brits, 12 Chris Smit, 11 Edwill van der Merwe, 10 Jordan Chait, 9 Remu Malan, 8 Stephan Streicher, 7 Chris Massyn (captain), 6 Johann van Niekerk, 5 Ben-Jason Dixon, 4 Zirk Jansen, 3 Sazi Sandi, 2 Daniel Jooste, 1 Wayrin Losper.
Replacements: 16 HJ Luus, 17 Leon Lyons, 18 Piet Strauss, 19 Mitchell Carstens, 20 Jesse Johnson, 21 Brendon Nell, 22 Anton du Toit, 23 Carlisle Nel.
UP-Tuks: 15 Vaughen Isaacs, 14 Dewald Naude, 13 Lourens Pretorius, 12 Erich Cronje, 11 Irvin Ali, 10 Tinus de Beer, 9 Theo Maree, 8 Denzel Hill, 7 Hanru Sirgel, 6 Stephan Smit, 5 Ruan Nortje, 4 Marius Verwey (capt), 3 Jean-Pierre Smith, 2 Johan Grobbelaar, 1 Etienne Janeke.
Replacements: 16 Werner Fourie, 17 Jacobus Eloff, 18 Bart le Roux, 19 Brian Leitch, 20 Raegan Oranje, 21 Damian Bonaparte, 22 Xolisa Guma, 23 Ewart Potgieter.
Referee: Paul Mente
Assistant referees: Divan Uys, Aimee Barrett-Theron
TMO: Joey Klaaste-Salmans