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The FNB Maties made a clean sweep in the 2009 FNB Varsity Cup presented by Steinhoff International; with one of their players walking off with the Player of the Tournament Award, the Men in Maroon being crowned as the most exciting team of the tournament and, of course, also successfully defending their title on Monday evening.
Chean Roux’s Stellenbosch team – who also won the inaugural Varsity Cup last year, beating UCT in the final – were handed the title of the ‘Team that played the best rugby’ (Rugby that Rocks) for 2009, that after they finished on top of the log; scoring 203 points and conceding just 84 points in the process, before also going on to win the 2009 final with a hard-fought 11-6 win over Pukke.
The Maties, who lost just one match in the 2009 Varsity Cup, scored 22 tries during the league phase of the competition (the third highest overall), but conceded a miserly eight at the same time – the fewest in the competition, with the next best defensive record being UJ’s (12 tries conceded).
The star man for the Men in Maroon in 2009 was undoubtedly scrumhalf Donald Stevens. The little No.9 scored a whopping 105 points this season (including the semifinals and final) and he was deservedly named as the 2009 Varsity Cup’s ‘Player that Rocks’ – or in simpler terms, the Player of the Tournament.
There was some consolation for inspirational Pukke No.8 and captain Willem van der Wal, who walked off with the Forward of the Tournament Award, whilst quicksilver UCT fullback Therlow Pietersen was confirmed as the Back of the Tournament.
Van der Wal led from the front throughout the 2009 Varsity Cup, scoring three tries and constantly helping his team over the advantage line – most memorably in their 17-13 league victory over UCT, a game they had to win to qualify for the semifinals.
Pietersen scored six tries during the season – making him the top try-scorer overall – but he also showed terrific positional play, assured hands under the high ball and a willingness to hit the backline at speed, something his fellow exciting Ikeys backs often took full advantage of.
Varsity Cup Chairman Francois Pienaar announced the award winners after Monday’s final, which was played in front of a 17,500-strong crowd in Stellenbosch and he was – as one would expect – delighted at the success of the second edition of this exciting tournament.
“Whilst last year’s competition produced thrills and spills of the highest nature, I thought the 2009 Varsity Cup produced quality rugby of the highest order throughout,” enthused the 1995 World Cup winner.
“All eight teams were so well prepared in 2009 – clearly lessons were learnt from the inaugural event and you could see how determined all the teams were not to disappoint this year.
“Well done to the Maties and the Pukke for making it into tonight’s final, to the Maties for defending their title and, of course, congratulations to the winners of these fantastic awards. Seventy-four players from the 2008 Varsity Cup earned professional contracts in 2009, I will be very surprised if that number does not increase come 2010.”
All the 2009 Varsity Cup award winners:
– Team that played the best rugby (Rugby that Rocks): Maties
– Forward of the Tournament: Willem van der Wal (NWU-Pukke)
– Backline of the Tournament: Therlow Pietersen (UCT)
– Player that Rocks: Donald Stevens (Maties)
* Meanwhile, Maties also provided the Miss Varsity 2009, with Stellenbosch’s Jennifer Arlow being announced as the fairest of them all at half-time of Monday’s absorbing final at the Danie Craven Stadium.