It's time for FNB Maties to rid themselves of the monkey on their back and finally get their hands back on the coveted Varsity Cup title. Here's why 2018 should be their year.
1. The Danie Craven Factor
The Danie Craven has been packed week after week, season after season and not only when it comes to semi-final and finals. Last year the FNB Maties' home ground was sold out virtually every home game, with fans streaming through the gates in their thousands. The local Stellenbosch folk have never let a stadium's capacity keep them from #MakingTheTeam. Oftentimes these die-hard fans would be seen finding a good vantage point on the adjacent mountain, all to get a good glimpse, with a cold one close by of course, of Edwill van Der Merwe's silky swerving sidesteps or Chippie Oelofse's rampaging runs. A definite advantage for the three-time Varsity Cup champions.
2. Only unbeaten side this season
FNB Maties have gone through the season unbeaten, a feat that they haven't achieved in a very long while. This was one of the most competitive seasons which saw a few shock defeats including FNB Ikeys being the only team to beat FNB NWU in Round Three. Not only are FNB Maties unbeaten so far, their defensive resolve has been clinical, to say the least. Conceding on average 16 points at home speaks of how tough it becomes for traveling sides to outsmart the Stellenbosch students.
3. No motorbikes or army parade, only beers and (Steers) burgers
The importance of a home crowd not only extends to the bums-on-seats factor but also what happens before, during and after the match. Danie Craven and Fanie du Toit have their own personalities and these two legends have aided their "main tenants" to some pulsating and memorable Varsity Cup finals. In Stellenbosch you would rarely find a maroon supporters t-shirt without a Steers Burger in one hand and a cold beverage in the other, while in Potch a paratrooper and the local bikers' club that would have added the extra Potch flavour. However, on Monday, it will be "Lente in die oë van die Stellenbosch studente" that will overpower as FNB NWU won't be hearing the Potch faithful chanting; "Kyk net hoe baie Pukke is ons hier!".
4. Six of the best!
The home team will be at an even stronger advantage having six players, who are in all likelihood to be named in the starting line-up, playing in their third consecutive Varsity Cup final. FNB Maties are the only side that have featured in three consecutive finals including 2016, 2017 and 2018. Captain Niel "Chippie" Oelofse, both Chrises (Smit and Smith), speeding Duncan Saal, the nippy scrumhalf Remu Malan and Janco Venter are the only six players to have played in the last three finals. Their experience, along with that of the coaching staff, will most certainly bolster the rest of squad in such high-pressure matches.
5. Marno & Arnoldi wearing the right jersey
The last time and only time that FNB NWU have lifted the trophy, was in 2016, and two players, in particular, Marno Redelinghuys and Wilmar Arnoldi, were instrumental for the FNB NWU in that emphatic 7-6 victory. This time, however, the duo will be donning the Maroon jumper after transferring to the Eikestad. Arnoldi, who has since become the first-choice hooker ahead of the formidable Craig Corbett, has been in fine form. Known for his powerful runs, Redelinghuys has been a great acquisition for FNB Maties. The loose forward and hooker's form will be key for Maties as they go in search of their fourth Varsity Cup title.