Cape Town - In a match where the Maties were their own worst enemies a superb kick from Theo Stapleberg ensured a 27-25 victory over NMMU in a FNB Varsity Cup match presented by Steinhoff International.
Just as they had done last week at home, Maties’ forwards dominated the opening exchanges with strong ball-carrying, strong play at the breakdown and a powerful scrum. However, a strong headwind meant that their backline failed to make the most of their early opportunities and it was instead NMMU who found themselves leading 6-0 at the first strategy break thanks to two well-taken penalties.
The resumption of the game saw Maties’ forwards continue to excel in every facet of the game except at the lineout, where the wind continued to cause havoc. That forward dominance finally paid off when the men-from-Stellenbosch used a powerful scrum on NMMU’s five-meter line to score the first try of the match in the 31st minute. They would score the second moments later after a perfectly executed rolling-maul gave Maties a 12-6 lead at halftime.
Maties started the second half strongly and, now with the wind at their backs, were able to control territory more effectively. This paid dividends when Maties scored their third of the match in the 46th minute after another excellent rolling-maul to extend their lead to 17-6.
Maties, bringing their backline more into the game, threw everything at the NMMU defence, but it held firm and the score would be unchanged at the hour-mark. However, a controversial seven-point try by NMMU’s, Kevin Kaba, in the 62nd minute brought the Eastern Cape side within four-points. Sensing the momentum of the game beginning to shift, Maties opted to take their first penalty of the game which Theo Stapelberg duly slotted with 15 minutes remaining.
Two yellow cards in five minutes would turn the game on its head. Maties captain, Beyers de Villiers, was sent to the Afkoelstoel in the 69th minute to hand NMMU a rare opportunity.
NMMU made their numerical advantage count with their second try a minute later to bring the scores level at 20 apiece. When Maties lost another man to the Afkoelstoel, Ian Groenewald, in the 74th minute, NMMU looked as if they were going to steal a victory at the death with their third try of the game.
Maties had the last say though, as the forwards once again rallied together to put their side in the perfect position to level the scores in the 80th minute. Theo Stapelberg stepped up to take the pressure kick and delivered in difficult conditions.