Preview: Varsity Cup Final
The defending champions will come up against the only unbeaten team in the tournament when UP-Tuks travel to Stellenbosch to play Maties in the Varsity Cup Final on Monday.
Three-time champions Maties have won all eight of their matches this season to earn the right to host UP-Tuks in a replay of last year's final, and they will want to make home advantage count in a match which will be televised live on Supersport One from the Danie Craven Stadium.
The Pretoria side lifted the trophy for the first time last year in front of their home crowd, but this year they must travel to Stellenbosch where Maties have a formidable record.
The Cape side have lost just two home games in the six-year history of the Varsity Cup, and have also never lost a home play-off match, so UP-Tuks will have to defy history if they are to retain their title.
Although Maties are unbeaten this season, they had to squeeze into the final with a tense victory over NMMU in their semifinal, while UP-Tuks were far more convincing in their demolition of UJ in Pretoria.
Both coaches have named unchanged starting line-ups this week but form is not likely to count for much in what should be another uncompromising battle between these two evenly-matched sides.
In their clash earlier in the season, a late penalty snatched a dramatic 18-16 victory in Pretoria for Maties who had trailed their hosts for the entire match, and their coach Chris Rossouw is expecting another tough encounter.
"They [UP-Tuks] have definitely been the team to beat this year and they are known to perform in finals so we will have to work hard again," said Rossouw.
The Maties boss credited his team's spirit as crucial to their unbeaten run this season and admitted that they will have to dig deep again if they want to clinch their fourth title.
"Nobody was giving us much of a chance at the start of the season, but we have grown with every game and developed a great spirit. The guys have shown plenty of passion and guts," added Rossouw.
Rossouw is hoping that his team's impressive home record will see them through against a UP-Tuks side he regards as the favourites heading into the final.
"It is something different playing at the Danie Craven Stadium and we have got a good record there which gives us confidence, but it will have to be a big effort against a very professional side," stated Rossouw.
Maties: 15 Craig Barry, 14 Clearance Khumalo, 13 Mark Hodgkiss, 12 Ryan Nell, 11 Dean Hammond, 10 JH Potgieter, 9 James Alexander, 8 Reniel Hugo, 7 Lungelo Chonco, 6 Helmut Lehmann (captain), 5 Wilhelm van der Sluys, 4 Jan de Klerk, 3 Os Hamman, 2 Charl de Villiers, 1 Alister Vermaak.
Replacements: 16 Frederik Kirsten, 17 Neil Oelofse, 18 Reuben Johannes, 19 Beyers de Villiers, 20 Jean Nel, 21 Dean Grant, 22 JP Lewis, 23 Brendan Pitzer.
UP-Tuks: 15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Vainon Willis, 13 Piet Lindeque, 12 Handre Pollard, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Willie du Plessis, 9 Danie Faasen, 8 Jono Ross (captain), 7 Jacques Verwey, 6 Shaun Adendorff, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Mike Williams, 3 Basil Short, 2 Mbongeni Mbonambi, 1 Juan Schoeman.
Replacements: 16 Jaco Visagie, 17 Sabelo Nhlapo, 18 Schalk Van Heerden, 19 Wiaan Liebenberg, 20 Emile Temperman, 21 Christopher Bosch, 22 Riaan Britz, 23 Christoph Gouws.
Date: Monday, April 8
Date: Monday, April 8
Venue: Danie Craven
Venue: Danie CravenStadium
Referee: Marius van der Westhuizen
Assistant referees: Lusanda Jam, Cwengile Jadezweni
TMO: Deon van Blommestein