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For the first time since March 2020, the Maroon Machine kicked off at home in the historic Danie Craven stadium. The Maties team took on FNB Wits in their third game of this year’s Varsity Cup on Monday night. Quickly gaining momentum, Maties’ Mike Mavovana scored the first try of the match only a few minutes in. 

Wits retaliated with a try moments later, but that was the last time they could match Maties on the scoreboard. By half-time, Maties had  an 18 – 5 advantage.

Though the Varsity Cup experience was vastly different from previous years, supporters enjoyed being able to show up for their team. Tickets were limited, with just grandstand seating available. A few cameramen populated the surrounding pavilions where hundreds of fans and refreshment tents used to be.

Carmi Wentzel, a second-year BA (Law) student, said, “I knew about Varsity Cup, everyone hypes it up. I have to admit that it was a lot of fun even though I don’t have anything to compare it to. 

“Generally, it was a very positive experience for me and if I can get a hold of tickets again I will definitely do it again”.

This impressive lead followed last week’s game against the University of the Free State’s FNB Shimlas in which Maties suffered a surprising 50 – 28 loss. Former-Springbok-turned-Maties-coach for this year’s Varsity Cup, Norman Jordaan, commented, “I think the boys showed some effort and intensity [tonight]. That’s exactly what we lacked against Shimlas.”

Last week’s defeat only seemed to fuel the team, and with a crowd of eager supporters cheering them on, Maties closed the game with a very convincing victory, beating their opponents with 37 – 10. Captain Adriaan van der Bank attributes this win to the team’s focus on discipline and technique. “The past two weeks were difficult, but we’re very glad that we could turn things around tonight,” he said. “I think we realised we’ve been playing against ourselves for the past two weeks.

“I think we made fewer mistakes tonight, so it already went a lot better.” He continued by saying, “We will enjoy tonight, but we know that the hard work begins again tomorrow.”

MAN OF STEEL Vernon Matongo, the player that rocked Danie Craven. Photo: Aurelia Mouton

The FNB Player that Rocks award of the night went to Vernon Matongo. Jordaan praised Matongo for his intensity during the match. “He settled our scrums quite well. He’s a youngster. I think he’s only 20 years old, so there’s still a big future laying ahead for him.” 

After receiving his award, Matongo commented, “Today is such a special day to me. My father passed away a few years ago and today is his birthday, so I had to just dig deep and do it for him. Whenever I felt tired, I knew why I was doing this. That’s the reason I started playing this game.”

The FNB Maties will take on the University of Johannesburg’s team at the Danie Craven Stadium on 7 March.

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