Remembering #RugbyThatRocks: When FNB Maties got the title monkey off their backs

FNB Varsity Cup

SuperSport are replaying iconic FNB Varsity Cup games and on Friday, 27 March (10:40, channel 201) it's the turn of the 2018 Final, when FNB Maties ended eight years of waiting for the title. 

FNB Maties were the dominant team when FNB Varsity Cup shook up South African rugby in 2008. The men from Stellenbosch claimed the first three titles (twice beating intervarsity rivals FNB UCT and edging FNB NWU in 2009), in the process establishing their Danie Craven Stadium into the fortress which it remains today.

The Maroon Machine had an inauspicious 2011 season (finishing fifth and missing the playoffs) but bounced back in 2012 to finish second and reach the final, where table-toppers FNB UP-Tuks got the better of them (29-21). The same two teams reached the 2013 final, with positions reversed at the end of round-robin play, but The Stripe Generation retained their title with a dominant 44-5 showing in Stellenbosch - one of only five times in Varsity Cup history that Maties have lost at 'The DC'. 

It then took another three years for Maties to reach the final, but in the nail-biting 2016 showpiece in Stellenbosch, FNB NWU held on for a famous 7-6 victory. A year later, UP-Tuks once again beat the men in maroon in the final (28-21), in Pretoria this time, meaning Hawies Fourie had lost both finals in his first two years in charge.

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Nonetheless, a determined Class of 2018 produced an unbeaten round-robin phase of the season (six wins and two draws) as they had done in 2010, 2012 and 2013. 

That set up a semi-final against first-timers FNB Wits, and the Maroon Machine promptly picked them apart to claim a 65-18 victory, and secure a sixth Varsity Cup home final.

In the meantime, NWU had put together an encouraging season of their own. Jonathan Mokuena's charges suffered a surprise defeat (18-15) in Round 3 against FNB UCT but were one of the two teams to match Maties during the round-robin phase... drawing 33-33 with them in Potchefstroom the week before the semifinals. In the final four, NWU handed FNB UJ a 60-31 defeat to arrive in Stellenbosch as confident as any team could ever be facing Maties at Danie Craven Stadium.

However, Maties showed the proverbial 'wanting it more' spirit and outscored NWU four tries to one with Chris Smith being unnerring with the boot too. When the final hooter went, to hand the hosts a 40-7 victory, the packed Danie Craven erupted queing celebrations long into the Stellenbosch night.

READ MORE: The full match report of how the Maroon Machine dominated the 2018 Final