Maties expect great game

FNB Maties coach Chean Roux intends on playing a running game when his charges travel to UCT on Friday for both teams’ final WP Super League clashes of the season.

The Stellenbosch students will take on their Cape Varsity Cup rivals at Groote Schuur (kick-off 7.45pm) in a game that could just produce some serious fireworks.

Both the Maties and the Ikeys are assured of finishing in second and third place, respectively – no matter what happens on Friday, and, for that reason, Roux is expecting an exciting contest.

“We’ve had some great games (between Maties and UCT) of late,” he told, “I’m expecting no less (on Friday).”

Another factor for Roux – as he hopes for a humdinger at the Green Mile – is the presence of provincial backs Conrad Hoffmann and Paul Bosch, both of whom have been released by Western Province coach Allister Coetzee.

“I’ll start with Conrad at No.10,” said Roux, his decision no doubt down to a request from the WP brainstrust who are looking to convert Hoffmann into a flyhalf.

“Hoffie and Boschie are both keen for some game time; they’ll relish a nice open and expansive contest on Friday night.”

And as the successful Maties mentor contemplated one final WP Super League hit-out in 2009, he added: “You know, it’s been a long year for my players. Remember, they’re not professionals, yet the season started in February and it’s ending now, virtually in October.

“I think the guys are looking forward to one final battle against UCT and also quite excited to have a few beers and celebrate the end of the season! Also, some of the older guys are moving on, with work new commitments and so on, so we’ve got enough reason to want to end things off on a high.”

The 2009 season has indeed been a long one for Roux and his Maties team.

And it has certainly had its fair share of ups – like claiming a second successive Varsity Cup title – and downs; like missing out on qualifying for the SAA National Club Championships and relinquishing their WP Super League title to Hamilton’s in the process.

“I don’t know if this makes sense, but we’ve had a good average year,” lamented Roux.

“I’ve said this before, but the Varsity Cup (win) was like winning the Super 14 title… which province would be disappointed with, say, winning the Super 14, but then not winning the Currie Cup?

“Sure, I am disappointed at not being at the Club Champs, or not winning the Super League, but we let things slip in our league matches against Hamilton’s and then there was that ‘Durbel’ loss when we had guys down with Swine Flu and others – including myself – involved with the SA Universities team.

“It’s certainly no excuse, but maybe I should’ve done something about that ‘Durbel’ game, me not being there and all, but I guess you learn from situations like that.”

Looking ahead to next season, Roux is obviously eyeing a hat-trick of FNB Varsity Cup presented by Steinhoff International titles, which is why he will start assembling a training squad of hopefuls in November already.

“Overall, I think we have serious talent and some good youngsters at Maties, but it’s a bit of ‘silly season’ at the minute with the guys being offered contracts elsewhere – be it at provinces or other clubs,” he said.

“I’ve told the guys here they can get the exposure they want on TV during the Varsity Cup and also challenge for trophies here at Maties – more than that, we can’t give, so it’s up to them really (if they want to stay).”

And in terms of preparation for the 2010 Varsity Cup, Roux commented: “The guys will basically get a month off after Friday night… Then we’ll get together and do some gym and perhaps a bit of rugby work (in November).

“We’ll save the serious on-field stuff for early December, if I can keep the players around that long, otherwise it’s an early start for the players in January and then, of course, the Varsity Cup starts in early February.

“There certainly is no rest for the wicked, but the Varsity Cup is really a fantastic tournament and we cannot afford to rest on our laurels (of the past two seasons).”

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