FNB Maties only lost one match in the Varsity Cup last year, but it was a home final, and coach Chris Rossouw is determined to go one better this season.
After winning the first three Varsity Cup titles the Stellenbosch side have experienced three relatively lean years, including consecutive defeats to FNB UP-Tuks in the final, which is all the motivation Rossouw’s squad needs ahead of the new season.
Although the Maroon Machine showed impressive consistency last year, the manner of their 44-5 capitulation to Tuks in the final at the Danie Craven Stadium clearly hurt Rossouw.
“In the final you are always going to come up against a good quality side, but the way we lost was not great.
“Last year was actually our best season in the league and Varsity Cup – the most tries, least penalties conceded and all of that. So we were happy with what we did, it was just the way we lost in the final was quite bad and obviously we will try and see if we can improve on that,” he told varsitycup.co.za.
Maties have always been renowned for their incredible depth, but Rossouw explained that the rise of different academies around the country have limited their supply of talent somewhat.
“Since 2007 institution academies have started, so guys are signed before Matric and they don’t need to come to Maties anymore for exposure so our depth pool is definitely smaller,” he said.
The loss of senior players such as Reniel Hugo, James Alexander, Allister Vermaak and Os Hamman means that Rossouw’s squad is a relatively young one this year, which is why they have been working hard in the pre-season to ensure that they are up to speed.
“We have got a young group so we started a bit earlier this year to get them in a good physical condition so we are happy with where we are at,” he said.
Despite these obstacles the Maties coach is confident that the new faces in his squad will be able to make the step up alongside experienced campaigners such as captain Tertius Daniller, Helmut Lehmann, Mark Hodgkiss and Craig Barry to have a tilt at the title once again.
“There are a few guys coming through and we will see how they go in the competition. It is a different competition and a big step up,” Rossouw added.