Maties book final spot
Cape Town - Maties used all their forward strength and previous playoff experience to power into the 2012 Varsity Cup final with an impressive 23-0 win over UJ in Stellenbosch on Monday.
The men in maroon have won the Varsity Cup on three previous occasions and are yet to lose a knockout match in this tournament.
On Monday, at the Danie Craven Stadium, they never looked like losing for one second as they delivered an impressive performance in front of a packed and passionate Stellenbosch crowd.
They led 21-0 at half-time and did well to repel an improved UJ in the second half, but they were ahead on points going into the second forty minutes without being required to land the knockout blow.
The match started relatively evenly, as both sides felt each other out a bit but some quick thinking from the two Andrés - Kemp and Smith - put the home side into an 8-0 lead after just seven minutes.
Kemp spotted a flat lying UJ defence and stabbed a kick through, which Smith ran on to with precision - the kind bounce helping - before dotting down under the uprights. Kemp, again, made no mistake by adding the three points.
The men in orange hardly had time to catch their breath as they found themselves under their uprights just two minutes later - the Maties winning a penalty from the restart, kicking to touch and mauling over the UJ line. Hooker Rob Herring popped up with the ball and the broadest smile of them all, as Kemp slotted the trickier conversion.
To their credit, UJ did not panic too much, but they were always playing catchup rugby from then on at 0-16 down.
The score remained at 16-0 going into the game's first strategy break, but the home side were on attack just outside the UJ 22 before the break and they made it count straight afterwards when lock-cum-No 8 Grant Hattingh crashed over for try No 3.
Hattingh took a neat pop pass from his hard-working captain Helmut Lehmann on the right-hand side of the field, before crashing over in a hopeful tackle from UJ winger Chrysander Botha. Quite amazingly, it was Hattingh's seventh try of the season, and it put the hosts ahead by 21-0 as Kemp missed the conversion.
The visitors did have one attacking opportunity before the end of the first half, as winger Botha broke out down the left-hand touchline, but the Maties defence was alert to it and managed to diffuse the situation - even when UJ won an attacking five-metre scrum.
Aside from the 21-0 scoreline, the Maties also bossed the statistics at half-time - leading the possession stakes by 57% to 43% and being forced to make fewer tackles, 31 to 45. Interestingly, Maties conceded (six) more penalties than UJ (four) in the first forty minutes.
With the win basically in the bank, the second half failed to live up to the highs of the first, as Maties were content to keep their noses in front.
UJ fought as hard as they could, and looked to make a game of it in the first few minutes of the second half, but they were never able to breach the watertight maroon defensive wall.
André Kemp had one shot at goal in the second half, which he duly converted to extend his team's lead to 23-0, meaning that three converted tries would still have done the trick going into the final quarter.
But UJ were never able to get enough front foot ball against the rugged Maties pack and even though the match fizzled out a bit in the final quarter, there was always going to be just one winner after Stellenbosch's three-try burst up front.
Tries: Smith, Herring, Hattingh
Cons: Kemp 2
Maties: 15 André Smith, 14 Ryan Nell, 13 Wessel Coetzee, 12 Louis Jordaan, 11 Dean Hammond, 10 André Kemp, 9 Boela Abrahams, 8 Grant Hattingh, 7 Helmut Lehmann (captain), 6 Sam Mabombo, 5 Hugo Kloppers, 4 Reniel Hugo, 3 Os Hamman, 2 Rob Herring, 1 Brummer Badenhorst.
Replacements: 16 Alfred Ries, 17 Alistair Vermaak, 18 JP Swanepoel, 19 Nicholas de Jager, 20 Donald Stevens, 21 Jarryd Buys, 22 Clearance Khumalo, 23 Hein van der Merwe.
UJ: 15 Worsie Kotze, 14 JR Esterhuizen, 13 Justin St. Jerry, 12 Divan van Zyl, 11 Chrysander Botha, 10 Guy Cronjé, 9 Rudy Paige, 8 Justin Wheeler (captain), 7 Wendal Wehr, 6 Johan van Deventer, 5 Sebastian de Chaves, 4 Marnus van Huyssteen, 3 Ruan Dreyer, 2 Francois du Toit, 1 Wessel du Rand.
Replacements: 16 Shaun Malton, 17 Jaco Vermeulen, 18 Shane Kirkwood, 19 RJ Liebenberg, 20 Jacques Pretorius, 21 Luan Steenkamp, 22 Aubrey McDonald, 23 Heinrich Terblanche.
Referee: Marius van der Westhuizen
Assistant referees: Ben Crouse, Marc van Zyl
TMO: JC Fortuin, Deon van Blommestein