Will UCT upset the Maties

It’s the Varsity Cup Final that everybody has been waiting for – even if it did take two years to materialise once more. The only question that remains now, is whether FNB UCT can upset the FNB Maties applecart in tomorrow’s final at the Danie Craven Stadium.

At first glance, one would have to say no…

After all, the rampant Maties have not lost a Varsity Cup match since last year’s final round of league fixtures – against FNB Tuks in Stellenbosch – and the Ikey Tigers have not beaten the Maties, in any competition, since a Varsity Cup league match on neutral soil, in George, back in 2008.

But then, again, this John Dobson-coached UCT side seems to thrive when they are written off – as they proved in the inaugural Varsity Cup in 2008; the Ikey Tigers going on to top the log, before going down narrowly in the final at this selfsame venue… to these very same Men in Maroon.

“We like it when no one gives us a chance,” said Dobson to varsitycup.co.za this week, “we hear that it’s going to be a cricket score (for them). I must confess, I don’t think it will be!

“We are very excited about Monday and the whole occasion (and to see Kurt Darren and maybe get his autograph), but we know we are up against a juggernaut of a side who have broken all records. They are a quality, quality outfit.”

The last time UCT and Maties met, in a this year’s round robin match at the Danie Craven Stadium, the Maties triumphed 23-17 – that after leading 16-5 at half-time and 23-5 soon after the break.

The Ikeys staged a spirited comeback in the second half, and had their chances to win, but – in the final analysis – they lost out to a well-drilled Stellenbosch team who have since gone on to top the Varsity Cup log for the second year in a row.

“We really wanted to have another crack at the Maties,” admitted Dobson, whose team outscored the Maties by three tries to two in that previous clash.

“You cannot go to the Craven Stadium against a team of the quality of Maties and expect to win making so many mistakes,” he added. “We have tweaked a few things (this week) to avoid that again.”

Whilst most pundits and supporters believe it is a case of the Maties simply pitching up and winning on Monday night, Stellenbosch head coach Chean Roux is far too wily to allow his players to relax.

“As I said before our pool match (two weeks ago), the team that does not fire could be in for a big hiding,” Roux told varsitycup.co.za. “It will be a great occasion and there will be 30 very, very fired-up players taking to the field come Monday – motivation will not be a problem for myself or Dobbo [UCT coach John Dobson].”

Roux also has too much respect for his opposite number, Dobson; the duo having locked horns against each other for some time now – and even joining forces for a coaching assignment a few years ago.

“Dobbo and I have been coaching against each other for a while now, and the players know each other well too, but derbies are tricky things,” warned the Maties mentor.

“For instance, look at the Tuks-TUT match earlier this year, TUT were meant to be easy-beats, yet they pushed Tuks all the way. In soccer, the Man Utd-Man City and Liverpool-Everton games never go according to script – so, as you can see, we’re in for one helluva game… no matter what transpires.”

It remains to be seen just what will transpire come Monday night. Logic and carefully-researched predictions will certainly have no bearing on the final outcome.

With the house-full signs having already gone up on Friday, there will certainly be plenty of students, alumni and neutral rugby fans jostling for space in a stadium that hosts some 17,000 people – the rest no doubt heading for the trees and the mountains as they did in the memorable 2008 final between these sides.

Back then, the Maties had to rely upon a last-second Morné Jooste try to seal a dramatic 16-10 victory, before eeking out an 11-6 win over FNB Pukke in last year’s final to defend their title.

The Pukke were at the receiving end once more last week, when Stellenbosch beat them 47-11 to move to a third successive final, but as their coach Rudy Joubert said before the semifinals, “If I didn’t think we had a chance, what would the point be of even arriving on Monday?”.

UCT, according to their coach, have the same attitude and that’s what will make the 2010 final so special.

The teams:

FNB Maties: 15 Adnaan Oesman, 14 Wilhelm Loock, 13 Danie Poolman, 12 Charl Weideman, 11 Tythan Adams, 10 André Kemp, 9 Johan Herbst, 8 Josh Strauss, 7 Jonathan Adendorf, 6 Sam Mabombo, 5 Hugo Kloppers, 4 Andrew Prior, 3 Lourens Adriaanse (captain), 2 Matthew Dobson, 1 Johan Roets.

Replacements: 16 Gareth Light, 17 Mike De Neuilly-Rice, 18 Marinus Pretorius, 19 Cameron Peverett, 20 Johan Laker, 21 Hayden Groepes, 22 Jonathan Francke, 23 Andrew Crausaz.

Head coach: Chean Roux

FNB UCT: 15 Therlow Pietersen, 14 Pete Haw, 13 Marcel Brache, 12 Sean van Tonder, 11 Marcello Sampson, 10 Matt Rosslee, 9 Stu Commins (vice-captain), 8 JJ Gagiano, 7 Mike Morris, 6 Nick Fenton-Wells (captain), 5 Donovan Armand, 4 Levi Odendaal, 3 Grant Kemp, 2 Mark Goosen, 1 Ash Wells.

Replacements: 16 Matt Page, 17 Chris Heiberg, 18 Mike Ledwidge, 19 Sam Peter, 20 Nic Groom, 21 Douglas Mallett, 22 Mark Esterhuizen, 23 Wesley Chetty.

Head coach: John Dobson

Date: Monday, March 29

Venue: Danie Craven Stadium

Kick-off: 6.30pm (Live on SuperSport One)

Referee: Tiaan Jonker