The FNB Maties, the reigning Varsity Cup champions, ended the Ikey Tigers unbeaten run in the 2011 tournament with a resounding 37-16 victory at Groote Schuur on Monday afternoon.
The match was played at an incredibly fast tempo as the Maties and the Ikey Tigers – last year’s finalists – reignited their bitter rivalry to battle for bragging rights in the Western Cape.
The Ikeys struggled to settle into their running game thanks to some ferocious tackling by the Maties, which they followed up by exerting their physical dominance at the rucks.
The intensity shown by the defending champions had the Ikeys on the back foot for much of the game and the robust Maties pack dictated proceedings almost throughout.
However, UCT did have their moments and can be a very dangerous side on the counter-attack – mustering a late comeback in the second half that gave the home supporters something to cheer about.
In the end, however, it was the constant pressure from the Maties that forced the Tigers into making too many costly errors that thwarted their attack.
It was UCT who were first on the scoreboard, as pivot Demetri Catrakilis – the leading points-scorer in the competition – slotted a drop-goal from just inside the halfway line in the opening stages.
Maties struck back almost immediately when flyhalf André Kemp changed direction to the short side, where fullback Ruan Combrinck put speedy wing Tythan Adams away and he wrong-footed UCT’s Ricky Rijs to go over for the try.
Catrakilis kept the Ikeys in touch with two more penalties soon afterwards to make the score 10-9 after 12 minutes. It was still game on.
Ikeys flank Nizaam Carr then made a costly error when he threw the ball away wildly after being tackled, that after his team had secured the turnover, only for it to be intercepted by Louis Jordaan. The Maties inside centre broke away and passed out to his midfield partner Stokkies Hanekom, who neatly flipped a quick ball out to Adams and the wing stepped inside passed two would-be tacklers and slid in for his second five-pointer of the day.
Maties then piled on the pressure with their massive pack of forwards and got a rolling maul rumbling forward from an attacking line-out. UCT had no answer to the powerful drive, as hard-working flanker Helmut Lehman went over for the third Stellenbosch try, leaving the score 24-9 at the half-time break.
It was the Maties who got the first points in the second half though a sweetly-struck penalty by scrumhalf Donald Stevens, who was back on the field having needed stitches for a gash on his head during the first half. That made it 27-9 to the home side with 30 minutes left to play.
The introduction of WP back Marcel Brache was the spark the Tigers backline needed as he darted into space and off-loaded the ball to Rijs, and the fullback crashed over the line for the home side’s first try – 16-27.
UCT came close to adding a second try in quick succession after an excellent run by flank Carr, who slid through the Maties defence and thought he had scored, only for the TMO to decide that he had been held in the tackle and the attempt to score was, in fact, a double movement.
The Ikeys attacked again from a scrum in the midfield, but Brache’s loose pass – meant for Catrakilis – was scooped up by a flying Hanekom, who dashed to the line untouched to score the all-important fourth – and bonus point – try for the Maties to end the match.
Stellenbosch’s win – their fifth in a row over UCT in the Varsity Cup, including two finals – saw them move to the top of the Varsity Cup log, but a bonus-point win for UJ – over Tuks – would see them replace the champions at the top of the table.
For FNB UCT:
Pens: Catrakilis 2
For FNB Maties:
Tries: Adams 2, Lehman, Hanekom
Cons: Stevens 2, Kemp 2
Pens: Stevens 3
UCT: 15 Ricky Rijs, 14 Pete Haw, 13 Therlow Pietersen, 12 Nick Holton, 11 Paul Cohen, 10 Demetri Catrakilis, 9 Ricky Schroeder, 8 Greg Mallett, 7 Nick Fenton-Wells (captain), 6 Nizaam Carr, 5 Brad Bosman, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Shane Meier, 2 Matt Page, 1 Wes Chetty.
Replacements: 16 Dayne Jans, 17 Francois van Wyk, 18 Pallo Manuel, 19 Zandy Macdonald, 20 Nick Farrar, 21 Marcel Brache, 22 Jannie Bester, 23 Niel Naude.
Maties: 15 Ruan Combrinck, 14 Ryan Nell, 13 Stokkies Hanekom, 12 Louis Jordaan, 11 Tythan Adams, 10 André Kemp, 9 Donald Stevens, 8 Tertius Daniller, 7 Reuben Johannes, 6 Helmut Lehman, 5 Hugo Kloppers, 4 Andrew Prior, 3 Buhle Mxunyelwa, 2 Callie Visagie (captain), 1 Os Hamman.
Replacements: 16 Gareth Light, 17 Alistair Vermaak, 18 Chris van Zyl, 19 Grant Hattingh, 20 James Alexander, 21 Jody Rose, 22 Jarryd Buys, 23 Suan Havenga.
Referee: Tiaan Jonker
TMO: JC Fortuin