They say that defence wins championships, and that was certainly the case in Monday night’s Varsity Cup final in Pretoria as Tuks centre Divan Rossouw returned an interception for a decisive nine-point try in a 28-21 victory against Maties.
In a battle between former Griquas coaches Pote Human and Maties front man Hawies Fourie, Tuks showed great character to mount a comeback that clinched their third title.
On a perfect autumn evening in the capital, it was Maties who looked set to hoist the trophy for an unprecedented fourth time when they absorbed a yellow card to secure a 15-13 advantage at the break. But Tuks bounced back in the second half, despite losing a man to the sin-bin, as Rossouw picked off a pass for a long-range try that tipped the contest in the hosts’ favour.
It was the visitors who started with a bang as lock Janco Venter crashed over for a seven-point try after a few solid phases of play from the Maroon Machine. Flyhalf Chris Smith added the extras to give Stellenbosch University a 9-0 lead.
Tuks dominated the set-piece battle throughout the final and captain Chris Massyn showcased their ascendancy when he dived across the line from the back of a powerful scrum that had the Maties pack in reverse. Flyhalf Tinus de Beer converted to cut the deficit to two points at the 10-minute mark (9-7).
Maties’ sharpshooters, Smith and fullback Tiaan Swanepoel dented the scoreboard with one penalty each, but Tuks rallied after the visitors lost Venter to a yellow card for a tip tackle, with De Beer converting two penalties to bring the curtain down on a gripping first half (15-13).
Smith split the uprights shortly after the restart to extend Maties’ lead to five points, but that was soon swallowed up by a nine-point try courtesy of an interception that led to a long-range counterstrike by Tuks centre Divan Rossouw, converted by De Beer.
The Tuks flyhalf added a penalty soon after to put the hosts into a handy 25-18 lead with just under 30 minutes to go.
Tuks suffered a huge setback when replacement prop Jaco Holtzhausen was sin-binned and Maties duly capitalised through the boot of Smith to narrow the gap to 25-21.
But De Beer completed the scoring with his fourth penalty midway through the final quarter and then applied his kicking skills in pinning Maties on the far end of the field as the clock ran down.
Tries: Chris Massyn, Divan Rossouw (7pt try)
Conversions: Tinus de Beer (2)
Penalties: De Beer (4)
Yellow card: Jaco Holtzhausen
Tries: Janco Venter (7pt try)
Conversions: Chris Smith
Penalties: Smith (3), Tiaan Swanepoel
Yellow card: Janco Venter
TUKS: 15 Manie Libbok, 14 Dewald Naude, 13 Divan Rossouw, 12 Joshua Stander, 11 Sibahle Maxwane, 10 Tinus de Beer, 9 Andre Warner, 8 Clyde Davids, 7 Chris Massyn (c), 6 Marco van Staden, 5 Aston Fortuin, 4 Brian Leitch, 3 Neethling Fouche, 2 Corniel Els, 1 Andrew Beerwinkel
Bench: 16 Jan-Henning Campher, 17 Jaco Holtzhausen, 18 Marius Verwey, 19 Eduan Lubbe, 20 Theo Maree, 21 Toko Maebane, 22 Keanan van Wyk, 23 Franco van den Berg
MATIES: 15 Tiaan Swanepoel, 14 Kyle Steyn, 13 Michal Haznar, 12 Chris Smit, 11 Craig Barry (c), 10 Chris Smith, 9 Brendon Nell, 8 Devon Nash, 7 Kobus van Dyk, 6 Mitchell Carstens, 5 Janco Venter, 4 Ian Groenewald, 3 Niel Oelofse, 2 Craig Corbett, 1 Wesley Adonis
Bench: 16 HJ Luus, 17 Ricky Ngwabara, 18 Wikus Groenewald, 19 Johan Momsen, 20 Stephan Streicher, 21 Remu Malan, 22 Ernst Stapelberg, 23 Duncan Saal
Varsity Cup Dream Team:
15 Craig Barry (Maties – captain), 14 Sibahle Maxwane (UP-Tuks), 13 Aphiwe Dyantyi (UJ), 12 Impi Visser (UP-Tuks), 11 Duncan Saal (Maties), 10 Tinus De Beer (UP-Tuks), 9 Andrew Warner (UP-Tuks), 8 Kevin Kaba (Madibaz), 7 Kobus van Dyk (Maties), 6 Daniël Maartens (Shimlas), 5 Loftus Morrison (NWU-Pukke), 4 Aston Fortuin (UP-Tuks), 3 Neethling Fouche (UP-Tuks), 2 Wilmar Arnoldi (NWU-Pukke), 1 Andrew Beerwinkel (UP-Tuks)
Bench: 16 Johannes Snyman (UJ), 17 Luvuyo Pupuma (Wits), 18 Nico Du Plessis (UJ), 19 Johan Momsen (Maties), 20 Phumzile Maqondwana (Shimlas), 21 Herchele Jantjes (UWC), 22 Ernst Stapelberg (Maties), 23 Michal Hazner (Maties)
Coach: Pote Human (UP-Tuks)
Assistant coaches: Denzil Frans (UP-Tuks) and Bevan Fortuin (UP-Tuks)
Team manager: Quintin van Rooyen (Maties)
Physiotherapist: Robyn Phillips (Wits)
Sports Scientist: Jacques Durand (UJ)
The VC Dream Team will face the Baby Boks on Tuesday, April 25 at the Danie Craven Stadium in Stellenbosch. Kick-off at 19:00.