NATASHA RUSCH

This year has been an outstanding one for Stellenbosch University (SU) as it is not only the year that the University commemorates its Centenary, but additionally it has been a year of many victories for the Maties Rugby Club.

At the age of 142, the Maties Rugby club is the second oldest rugby club in South Africa, and this year they were awarded the ‘Club of the Year’ achievement at the 2018 SU Sports Awards. The club was awarded this accolade because in 2018 they won the Varsity Cup Competition, USSA competition, Varsity Cup Young Guns Competition and the WP Super League A competition in both the First and Second League. These achievements were just some of the many titles that the club has taken home this year, as Maties Rugby First Team were also awarded the ‘Team of the Year’, with their head coach Hawies Fourie taking home the ‘Coach of the Year’ award. The Maties Men’s 7s Rugby team also thrived this year as they won Intervarsity against UCT, UWC and CPUT, and then at the Varsity Cup 7s finished fifth, winning the Plate Final.

Duncan Saal, who has played on the wing for the Maties Rugby First Team for the past three years, was awarded the prestigious ‘Sportsman of the Year’ award at the 2018 SU Sports Awards. Not only was he a key player in Maties’s victory at the Varsity Cup tournament, but he was also named Backline Player of the Tournament. When asked about this award, Saal accredited his title to his teammates in saying that “if the team looks good, then the individual looks good too”. Additionally, Saal said: “I’m just grateful to God, and just blessed to have got through the season without any serious injuries.”

 

Saal and Niel Oelofse, the captain of the Maties Rugby First Team, both said that the team was “very special” this year. Oelofse, who plays loosehead prop “(the most important and good-looking player in the team)”, said that their team had a good mix of youth, experience and a special bond. When asked to further describe their year’s success, Oelofse said that their team learnt from their previous years and attributed their success to their coaching staff who “put in a lot of hard work and spent hours to ensure we had the best strategies for our various games”. He also further accredited their victories to their conditioning coach, Andre Smith, and the team physiotherapist, Tanya Green, as he said with their help the team had shorter injury recovery time and was also the best prepared for the season.

Oelofse has been a member of the Maties Rugby team since 2013 and, after failing to win the Varsity Cup three times prior to this year, his highlight was when the team beat NWU 40-7 to win the Cup. Oelofse said that “it was very special to play my last game for such a profound rugby club and then ending on a high note, lifting the Varsity Cup in the air”. Although his time at Maties has come to an end, he said that he believes with Fourie already beginning to prep for next year, the team will continue to build the Maties brand. Oelofse has “no doubt that the team will do their best to ensure the Varsity Cup trophy stays in Stellenbosch”!

PHOTO: Maties Sport