In sport, people like to look back on their team’s ‘golden era’. Take the Currie Cup where Western Province reigned between 1982 and 1986, Super Rugby’s current two-time defending champion Crusaders, the Bulls’ three-trophy run between 2007 and 2010, the Springboks between 2007 and 2009, and the All Blacks’ world supremacy since 2011. At university level, the Maties dominated the scene between 2008 and 2010.
Since clinching their third Varsity Cup title in 2010, Maties fell at the final hurdle in 2012, 2013, 2016 and 2017, but finally broke a seven-year drought when they thumped Pukke 40-7 last year to bring the trophy back to Stellenbosch.
It was a remarkable feat and quite an emotional occasion as the crowd flooded the pitch at the final whistle to celebrate with the team. It really meant a lot to the players and the fans, and that moment may well have been the birth of another golden era for the Maroon Machine.
The scary thing is that Maties have only lost five Varsity Cup matches at the Danie Craven Stadium since 2008. They are currently on an eight-match winning streak, with a 33-33 draw against Pukke interrupting what would otherwise be a run of 16 consecutive wins.
Apart from their rich history, the setback of losing previous finals contributed to their success in 2018. They came close in 2016 and 2017, denied the trophy by small lapses. This side has flourished under the coaching of Hawies Fourie and they keep going from strength to strength.
In their Round 6 match against UJ, the men from Johannesburg pushed them to the edge, but Maties managed to win quite comfortably in the end. That is the sign of a champion team – they find a way to get the job done even when they don’t play to their standards or are being matched by determined opponents.
The Maties young guns side are also doing well, having won their first title in 2018 and players like Anton du Toit (youngest brother of Springbok utility forward Pieter-Steph du Toit) has been promoted from these ranks to become a regular starter at fullback for the Varsity Cup side.
And Maties won the Western Province Super League A title in 2018, beating Durbell 51-27 in the final, confirming that the depth of their talent pool is second to none. They have a conveyor belt of quality players just coming through all the time and other universities wish they had resources like Stellenbosch.
It’s hard to imagine that Maties won’t go on to dominate the Varsity Cup for years to come because they have their house in order – quality players, good coaching, a solid team culture and a crowd that comes out in numbers whether they play home or away!
A second consecutive title would confirm that Maties are in the thick of another golden era.
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