FNB Varsity Cup
FNB Maties will feed off the energy at the Danie Craven Stadium while the reigning champions will lean on a pragmatic game plan in the FNB Varsity Cup final on Monday night.
Ahead of the semi-finals, you would have been forgiven for thinking that the decider would be contested by FNB UFS Shimlas and the FNB UCT Ikeys at Shimla Park.
Over the course of the league phase, André Tredoux's charges played the most breathtaking brand of rugby. Tom Dawson-Squibb's side showed similar intent and ambition.
Yet here we are, on the day of the final, assessing the chances of two unilkely – albeit wholly deserving – title contenders: FNB Maties and FNB UP-Tuks.
FNB Maties made a statement in the 58-19 semi-final win against the Ikey Tigers in Cape Town.
After losing heavily to their arch-rivals and Shimlas during the league phase, the Stellenbosch students certainly proved that they have what it takes to beat the better sides in the tournament.
FNB Maties have already beaten FNB UP-Tuks once this season. A lot has changed since that fixture, though, and it's fair to say that Nico Luus' side is peaking at the right time.
FNB UP-Tuks have relied on the power of their pack and defensive line to win matches.
The pressure exerted via their aggressive defence, and their accurate kicking game, has created scoring chances.
Last week, they kept a more fancied Shimlas side scoreless in the second stanza, and ultimately won the semi-final in Bloemfontein 29-20.
Much like the Springboks, FNB UP-Tuks have the game plan to win big playoffs and trophies.
It will be interesting to see how FNB Maties respond to that type of challenge.
They have the pack to meet FNB UP-Tuks head-on – hooker Sean Swart's try tally of 12 is a testament to the potency of the FNB Maties lineout and maul – but it remains to be seen how they will deploy their backs.
FNB UP-Tuks boast a strong kicking game. Scrumhalf Bernard van der Linde, flyhalf Walter Visser and fullback Stefan Coetzee will work together to win the territorial battle for their side.
Nevaldo Fleurs has been retained at flyhalf despite the return of regular pivot Adriaan van der Bank – who has slotted in at fullback.
Whether FNB Maties decide to engage with FNB UP-Tuks in a kicking battle or not remains to be seen.
When you speak to the players, all of them acknowledge the crowd – and the energy of the home supporters in particular – as a key factor.
The Danie Craven Stadium will be packed to the rafters with partisan fans on Monday night.
While FNB Maties will need to prevail in a series of mini-battles on the field to win the war, their campaign will be enhanced significantly by home advantage.
As the stats suggest, FNB Maties rarely lose big games at the DC.
That said, few people gave FNB UP-Tuks any hope ahead of their semi-final showdown with FNB UFS Shimlas.
They certainly have the personnel as well as the game plan to score another big upset – and a record-equalling fifth title.
FNB MATIES vs FNB UP-TUKS (Monday, 19:00, Danie Craven Stadium, SuperSport channel 211)
FNB Maties – 15 Adriaan van der Bank (c), 14 Mike Mavovana, 13 Waqar Solaan, 12 Taigh Schoor, 11 Anton du Toit, 10 Nevaldo Fleurs, 9 Thomas Bursey, 8 Simon Miller, 7 Louw Nel, 6 Gift Dlamini, 5 Matt Gray, 4 Juan Beukes, 3 Matimu Manganyi, 2 Sean Swart, 1 Vernon Matongo. Subs: 16 Chris Rossouw, 17 Rhynhardt Rijnsburger, 18 Corné Weilbach, 19 Jesse Johnson, 20 Siyabonga Matanda, 21 Mckyle Volmoer, 22 Jurie Mathee, 23 Ghaalieb Kenny.
FNB UP-Tuks – 15 Stefan Coetzee, 14 Kabelo Mokoena, 13 Lincoln Daniels (c), 12 Pierre Fourie, 11 Tharquinn Manuel, 10 Walter Visser, 9 Bernard van der Linde, 8 Orateng Koikanyang, 7 Stephan Smit, 6 Dian Schoonees, 5 Divan Venter, 4 Mihlali Stamper, 3 Francois Klopper, 2 Allister Williams, 1 Ethan Burger. Subs: 16 Werner Fourie, 17 André van der Merwe, 18 Daniël Wessels, 19 Justice Nkombua, 20 Hilton Gie, 21 Chad-Lee Valentine, 22 Keane Galant, 23 Ambesa Zenzile.
In the earlier kick-off at the Danie Craven Stadium, the FNB NWU Eagles and FNB UP-Tuks will meet in the FNB Young Guns final.
Both teams topped their respective groups in the U20 tournament. In the semi-finals, the Eagles edged the FNB UCT Ikeys 33-27 after extra time in Potchefstroom while Tuks beat FNB Maties 35-20 in Pretoria.
When these teams last met, in round four, the FNB NWU Eagles beat FNB UP-Tuks 22-7 in Potchefstroom.
YOUNG GUNS FINAL – FNB NWU EAGLES vs FNB UP-TUKS (Monday, 16:30, Danie Craven Stadium, SuperSport channel 211)
FNB NWU Eagles Young Guns – 15 Luan van der Walt, 14 Sean Roulston, 13 Logan Janeke, 12 Arnoldus Vlok, 11 Simuthembile Ntleki, 10 Alec Vermaak, 9 Sanele Zungu, 8 Tshimollo Mogale, 7 Jacobus Eloff, 6 Hennie du Randt, 5 Robert-Andrew Adshade, 4 Tian van Zyl, 3 Lachance Tchokonte-Nana, 2 Brandon Beukes, 1 Khutso Tshisikhawe. Subs: 16 Angus Appollis, 17 Danial Theron, 18 Fernnin Arendse, 19 Ttsireletso Noko, 20 Schalk van Schalkwyk, 21 Ruben van der Merwe, 22 Christiaan Gates, 23 Damian Oosthuizen.
FNB UP-Tuks Young Guns – 15 Emmanuel Bhiya, 14 Bayanda Ngubane, 13 Waldo Noeth, 12 Fredrick Malgas, 11 Buhlebethu Planga, 10 Jean-Pierre Wentzel, 9 Jayden Sam, 8 Marco Venter, 7 Haydn Kemp, 6 Esam Zamubuntu, 5 Roald Hattingh, 4 Johannes Maré, 3 Mawande Mdanda, 2 Ruan van Blommestein, 1 Theodore Ferreira. Subs: 16 Sambesiwe Galada, 17 Richard Muller, 18 Barnard Nortje, 19 Hlomla Marenene, 20 Euan Groenewald, 21 Johan Muller, 22 Stephan Spies, 23 Lunga Ngwenyama.