The old days were always better… And that is the answer to the question whether the Maties side that won the Varsity Cup two seasons running is the best of all time.
They dismantled Tuks piece by piece and in every department and facet in the competition’s final on Monday night, and even the age-old (South African) excuse that they are rebuilding a team won’t wash for Tuks. The final score was 34-12.
It was the first time in four finals against Tuks that the Maties came out tops. In fact, all three titles by Maties to date have been won with Tuks as their opponents in the final.
Yes, Tuks are rebuilding which is no excuse, and yes, they were undoubtedly the second best side in the 2019 Varsity Cup competition. They lost only two matches, both to Maties, and beat the third best Pukke twice.
♦ But is this side their best-ever as Maties would have it? What about the sides of the late 1960s when the Ikeys had to line-up against a team than included Springbok captain Dawie de Villiers, with other Bok backline players including Eben Olivier, Gertjie Brynard, Gert Muller, Jannie Engelbrecht and Andy van der Watt? Up front were Springbok (and future captain) Hannes Marais, Boland Coetzee, Albie de Waal, André de Wet. Plus a plethora Western Province players.
♦ But that was then, and this Maties team is special. They are playing at a different level than provincial rugby, but several of them will, quite soon one would imagine, run out for provincial sides. There could also be a Springbok or two hidden in the past two years' winning sides that will come to light from the next stepping stone of provincial or Super Rugby.
Tukkies were a little overawed to start off, came back into their own when it probably was too late and after their forwards had been taught a lesson in scrummaging by the Maties. And then they lost their fullback Vaughan Isaacs with a red card for a swinging arm high tackle and that was the end of an unlikely comeback.
A great match it wasn’t. It had its moments, but it was generally hard, finals rugby by both teams.
In the end the Tukkies forwards didn’t provide enough ball to flyhalf Tinus de Beer to dictate while the Maties played as a unit that simply was too good for the visitors.
Maties (12) 34: Tries: Johann van Niekerk (2), Munier Hartzenberg (2). Conversions: Jordan Chait (3). Penalties: Chait (2).
Tuks (0) 12: Tries: Dewald Naude (2). Conversion: Tinus de Beer.