Maties could rewrite the Varsity Cup history books

Kabamba Floors and his FNB Maties rugby side are two wins away from etching their names in the FNB Varsity Cup historic annals as the first side to win the coveted trophy six times. In the first of two semi-finals on Monday, 15 April, Maties welcome 2015 champions, Shimlas, to Stellenbosch, in what can be expected to be a packed Danie Craven Stadium.

Current champions, NWU Eagles, are hosting fellow Western Cape side, FNB Ikeys, in the second semi-final.

“We know that we have very loyal and dedicated supporters and we have worked the whole year towards qualifying for a home semi-final,” Maties Head Coach, Kabamba Floors said after finishing in the second position on the final 2024 log.

It has been a near-perfect season for Floors and his entire Maties Rugby team after finishing in the second position, just one point behind the log leaders, FNB NWU Eagles. Along the way, the Maroon Machine brushed aside both Bloemfontein-based sides – FNB Shimlas and FNB CUT – in their backyard. An emphatic 10-15 win against intervarsity rivals, FNB UCT, away at the Green Mile in very windy and challenging weather conditions.

An exceptional run of form by the five-time champions in the latter part of this year’s competition. This remarkable form saw them secure bonus point wins from their last four matches, testifying to the resilience, synergy, and talent that exists within the 2024 team.

The round-robin matches concluded on Monday 08 April with Maties claiming a seventh win, keeping their win record on the road intact. The sole loss came in the opening round in Stellenbosch against the defending champions, NWU Eagles, 12-23.

After the fourth round of matches, Floors backed his side to peak at the right time and at that time he was particularly buoyed by the return of some key players from injury, at that stage, including MC van Heerden, Ethan Snyman, Edrich Viljoen, and Ezekiel Ngobeni.

The former Blitzboks star consigned to the age adage of tournament sport by approaching the overall competition game-by-game, and not getting ahead of themselves.

“As the competition gets tougher over the following three weeks, we would like to peak at the right time to get ourselves in a position to make the playoffs,” Floors said in the wake of the 54-22 victory against UJ. “We will have to evaluate every game on its merits and approach it that way. We cannot look at Shimlas (who is at the top of the log), we must focus on what we need to do in our next game.

“We have been extremely blessed on the injury front this season. It is, however, a testament to the amazing work that our medical and strength & conditioning staff have done. Our physiotherapist, Diana Jansen, S&C coach, MC Coetzee, and medical physician, Dr Craig Thompson need to be singled out here. They have done exceptionally well in keeping the entire Maties squad in optimal, peak, and excellent physical condition.”

Floors and co set a plan in motion, stuck to their guns, and came out at the top – well almost at the top, but the goal is halfway done and with a psychological edge over Shimlas heading into this fixture, Floors will be mindful to not fall for any mind games ahead of Monday’s knockout fixture. Maties will be hosting their tenth semi-final since the tournament’s inception, in 2008, and while they have never been on the losing side, the Maties mentor is not allowing complacency to creep in.

“It is very easy to fall into a comfortable zone, but we are aware of the threat that Shimlas pose to Maties. We cannot be resting on our laurels, what happened a few weeks ago is done and dusted, we are focussing on the semi-final now.”

While the Cheetahs legend is weary of the threat from Bloemfontein, he had an inspiring message for the Maroon Machine faithful ahead of the all-important home semi-final fixture.

“It is a privilege for us to play in front of a packed Danie Craven on a Monday night and we have done it. Monday is our most important game of the season and nothing else that has happened so far in the season matters, Monday is all that matters.”