Maties win Varsity Sevens
Andre Smith (Gallo Images)
Johannesburg - Maties were crowned the inaugural Varsity Sports Sevens champions in Plettenberg Bay on Saturday after beating NWU-Pukke 29-24 in a nail-biting final that was clinched in extra-time.
Both teams mounted comebacks in a tight match that finished off the weekend in style, with the momentum shifting constantly between the two sides.
There was no quarter given in the opening exchanges, played in damp conditions, but some scrappy play from Maties in their own 22 handed Pukke the ball on a platter, with JP du Plessis diving over for the opening try in the left corner.
The Stellenbosch side were forced to play from their own territory and they paid the price when Du Plessis raced over for his second try, which saw Pukke take a valuable 10-0 lead into the half-time break.
Maties started the second half with serious intent and Andre Smith broke the line before grubbering ahead and winning the race to the ball to score his team's opening try, which reduced the deficit to 10-5.
Pukke then worked themselves into a good position before Jaap Pienaar went over for another try and stretched the lead to 17-5.
With Maties desperate to get back into the game, the ball was sent wide to Koos Loubser who kicked over the top and collected to put Maties back within striking distance at 17-12.
That try seemed to give them renewed confidence and Maties continued to push forward, with some quick-stepping from Pieter de Villiers creating space out wide for Smith who went over in the right corner to level the scores.
With the pressure on, Pukke spilt the ball in their own 22 and Maties looked certain to score before Loubser was pulled back in the in-goal area.
Referee Rasta Rastivenga consulted with his assistants and awarded the penalty try to give Maties the lead for the first time in the match, but Pukke hit back with the last movement to take the game into extra-time.
A superb break-out try from Robin Goliath was successfully converted to make it 24-24 at the final whistle and the teams headed into sudden death.
Maties launched an attack up the left touchline and Michael Muller dived over for the decisive try to give his side a hard-earned victory.