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The FNB Maties rugby team faced Tuks in a competitive clash to kick off their first Varsity Cup game of the year. On Monday 14 February, the two teams faced each other for the first time since Tuks knocked out Maties in last year’s semi-finals. This took place during the Pretoria University side’s triumphant onslaught in last year’s Varsity Cup. A final score of 19–9 for Maties turned the tables, and could be an early indicator of a competitive season.

Even though FNB Maties could edge out their opponents in terms of possession, the stalwart teams were even where it counted at the end of the first half. An unrefined Maties squad could not capitalise on many opportunities, leading to the eventual 6–6 halftime score.

What started as a nail-biting second half later turned in favour of the Stellenbosch visitors when Maties took a gamble by opting for an attacking lineout rather than an easier penalty kick. A powerful rolling maul by the Matie forwards initiated the first try of the match, which was scored by replacement hooker Sean Swart. For his monumental contribution to his team’s successful start, Juan Beukes was named the FNB Player that Rocks for this match.

“The award is a very big honour for me. It’s a huge privilege for players to be awarded [Player that Rocks], so I am very happy to be chosen. It’s also a great personal victory, as I tore my ankle ligaments on this exact field during my first game for the Maties team, and I had to face this field again,” said Beukes.

Despite both teams losing several senior players since the start of last year’s season, Adriaan van der Bank leads this young Maties team in his first year as captain. FNB Maties coach, Norman Jordaan, remarked, “He’ll definitely be one to watch … but ‘Bankies’ is an inspirational figure within the setup, and we’re confident about what he can do as the leader of a younger, yet talented, group of players.”

Back in Stellenbosch, having the team play away from home did not deter Matie supporters from showing their love. As the first day of classes for the year commenced, a wave of maroon Matie shirts could be spotted across campus—even at the 8 AMs. Later that day, the town was filled with students and fans who gathered to watch the exciting kick-off of the Varsity Cup’s 14th season.

Maties will take on UFS Shimlas on 21 February live on SuperSport. Matie fans will have to hold out a little longer to watch the Maroon Machine in person. The first Varsity Cup game to kick off at the Danie Craven Stadium since 2020 will take place on 28 February.

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