FNB Varsity Cup
Former FNB Maties coach Chean Roux reflects on an unforgettable 2008 FNB Varsity Cup tournament, the 500-game milestone and the impact the competition has had on his career.
The 2008 FNB Maties side showed remarkable resilience to fight back and win their semi-final, and scored a try after the hooter to win the final. How did you as a coach foster that sense of belief? The final was incredible. We had finished second behind UCT but the final was hosted in Stellenbosch [due to UCT not having adequate floodlights for a TV broadcast]. The group of players had been together for a while, and had won the National Club Championship in 2005 and 2007. There was a good foundation.
How different was the make-up of the team back then? Captain Bennie Booysen – who was already working at the time – really grafted to be playing for Maties. Scrumhalf Wilhelm Koch was studying dentistry and had said no to provincial contracts as he wanted to finish his degree. Morné Jooste – who scored the match-winning try – was busy with his honours degree. Then players like Juan de Jongh and Joe Pietersen were professional rugby players which added another element.
What do you remember about the culture and values of the side? The one thing that stands out is that it was always a pleasure going to the practices. There was always someone cracking a joke. Even though we trained really hard and some tough words were said at the training sessions, the okes always had fun. The players kept each other on their toes, so if someone made a mistake someone else would always have something to say. If something was wrong in a video session or in a speech, the players would have a go. It was just such a fantastic group of guys. Winning games helped, but even after we lost a few games the culture was very good.
FNB Maties and the FNB UCT Ikeys are playing the 500th game of the tournament on Monday. FNB Maties have the chance to claim their 100th FNB Varsity Cup win. How fitting is it that these two teams will feature in such a monumental match? It's actually incredible that this is the 500th match. It feels like only yesterday that I started my own career. Even when I played for the Stellenbosch U20 side, the game against UCT was massive. The old Maties alumni would tell you that you can lose all the other games, but never the match against UCT. The crowd around the field made it such a special game. Win or lose, the atmosphere was always incredible. The fans got into busses and travelled to wherever the game was staged. My hope is that this never dies and that it always remains something special.
Speaking as a coach who has won the tournament three times, do you have any advice to impart to the current side that’s looking to lift the trophy? My advice wouldn’t be good advice [laughs]. I would use all the cliches in the book! Working hard and all of that. The last thing Springbok and Maties legend Ian Kirkpatrick said to me is that you need a lot of luck to win trophies. I think we used up all of our luck at some stage during that Varsity Cup in 2008. You must know that your luck will turn, though, and that every team competing for a trophy will enjoy some luck at some point. We also had a great management and support structure in place. It takes a lot of hard work to put a team in a position to compete for titles, and we were very fortunate to have that in the early days of the Varsity Cup.
Since leaving FNB Maties, you’ve gone on to work with the Springboks and the Junior Springboks. How much of your career was influenced by the success you enjoyed in the FNB Varsity Cup? If it wasn’t for Varsity Cup and the foundation that it laid, I wouldn’t have had the platform to be a coach. Francois Pienaar, Derek Carstens [who passed away in 2021] and FNB created an amazing platform, not just for me, but for a lot of coaches and players. The competition has broadened the ground level for coaches and players and given us opportunities. It’s a fantastic tournament and I’m just super grateful to have played a small little part. It’s probably the best tournament that there is!
Interview by Dorfling Terblanche