Maties have secured their spot in yet another FNB Varsity Cup final after narrowly defeating UJ 22-14 in the first semi-final at Danie Craven Stadium on Monday afternoon.
After beating UJ comfortably last week, Maties was forced to work much harder this time around as UJ came out guns blazing throughout the 80 minutes.
UJ put Maties under immense pressure in the first half, with their forwards asserting control over the Maties forwards. Dominant and powerful scrums meant UJ had the upper hand but unnecessary mistakes let the Johannesburg outfit down.
The Maties backs looked more dangerous with ball in hand with outside centre, Michal Haznar, in particularly running strong lines as Maties had the majority of possession in the first half.
Winger, Kyle Steyn, picked up wherehe left off last week by scoring the first and only try before the break, after Haznar broke through from his own half before offloading to Steyn, resulting in a seven-point try for the men from Stellenbosch.
However, UJ remained in the contest with their forwards. Numerous scrum penalties resulted in them getting points on the board through fly half, Divan Nel, who also slotted a drop goal.
Ill-discipline towards the latter stages of the first half by UJ gave Maties fly half, Ernst Stapelberg, the opportunity to add to the home side’s total as Maties led 15-9 at the break.
The second half started well for Maties when Craig Barry sniped through the UJ defence in the 47th minute to score his ninth try of the season – the most by any Maties player in a single season.
UJ, however, hit back through a try by replacement fullback, Ronald Brown, in the 63rd minute to make it anybody’s game. Some tight defence by UJ in the final 10 minutes of the match meant they were still in with a chance. They threw everything at Maties and it took some last-gasp defending by the Maroon Machine to eventually win a penalty on their own try line in the 80th minute.
UJ added to the tension when they played their white card after the penalty decision for Maties. This was unsuccessful as replacement fly half, Chris Smith, booted the ball into the stands to send Maties to their second successful final. Maties will travel to Pretoria to face UP Tuks on the 17th of April. Tuks got the better of Shimlas in the second semi-final, which means that they will host the final.
Maties outside centre, Michal Haznar, was named man of the match. – André Huisamen