Courtney Williams

Rhere was a sense of excitement and anticipation that filled the air at the overflowing Danie Craven Stadium when the boys from Stellenbosch took on FNB NWU Pukke in the penultimate final on
Monday evening.

The men from Stellenbosch who topped the log in the league phase of the competition secured themselves a home final in this year’s Varsity Cup campaign. Maties clinched their 4th Varsity Cup trophy after a lengthy wait as it has taken them seven years and three consecutive finals to break the Maroon Machines’ drought.

The home side, who proved to be a difficult opposition, going undefeated in this year’s Varsity Cup, provided the same continuity in the final. The Maties crowned as Varsity Cup champions
sell-out Maties crowd had their flags flying high when they were celebrating their team’s first try, for it only to be disallowed for illegal scrumming. The sea of maroon had to wait until the 19th minute before the home side was awarded a penalty try as a result of a dominant scrum.

The home team certainly was looking to catch NWU out wide and they did on numerous occasions, but were let down by their composure in crucial areas inside NWU’s territory. Dominant in all phases of the game, Maties proved too structured in defence and aggressively swift in attack. Maties furthered their lead to ten points in the 31st minute through Smith with a drop-goal. Against the run of play, it was the boys from Pukke who had the last say going into halftime when Tiaan Bezuidenhout put his team in contention with Schalk Hugo converting his efforts. The teams
went in, 10-7 at the break.

On the other side of the interval it was Maties who struck early from the offset with a televised interception from fan-favourite Edwill van der Merwe who touched down for a seven-point try. Chris Smith, who has been remarkably consistent this season, added some extras to put the home side ahead, 19-7. There was a sense of victory in the air when the Maroon Machine controlled the passage of play with their watertight defensive display and resilient urge to get their hands on the ball.

Backed by a roaring Danie Craven, the supporters were sent into a frenzy when Johan Momsen powerhoused his way over the line from short range, putting the home side 26-7 in the lead. As the University celebrates its centenary this year, pink flags commemorating the hundred years flew high after Munier Hartzenburg and Rick Nwagbara sealed off a very convincing 40-7 win.

The sky filled up with fireworks and champagne, with thousands of supporters invading the pitch to celebrate the kings of Varsity Cup. As security controlled the crowd and the post-match interview, boards were erected and there were a few special mentions made. Maties’ very own Duncaan Saal and Marno Redelinghuys received forward and backline players of the tournament respectively, with Johan van Niekerk receiving the game’s Player that Rocks award. As the trophy was passed down a line of the captains of its previous winners, it was a proud moment for Oelfse and his men who hoisted the gold into a cheer of confetti and jubilation.

After three consecutive finals, Maties certainly looked like a welloiled Maroon Machine with Captain Neil Oelfse attributing the root of his team’s success to a collective effort. “It’s a very special moment for us. We learnt from our mistakes, it was an all-round effort from the players, coaches and supporters.”

Maties’ Player that Rocks, Johan van Niekerk, also placed emphasis on the resounding support, giving credit to the role that the fans played. “In front of a crowd like this, it’s impossible not to pitch up… Look at the crowd, look at the team, we’re happy it’s back home!”

Photo: Varsity Sports