Picture: THINKSTOCK
Picture: THINKSTOCK

Four-time and reigning Varsity Cup champions Maties tackle former three-time champions Tuks at the Tuks Stadium on Monday (kickoff 7pm).

The two most successful teams in the competition are unbeaten after two rounds and have collected nine log points apiece from a possible 10.

The men from Stellenbosch sit atop the nine-team table courtesy of a superior points difference to that of their Pretoria counterparts.

Tuks did not have a great season in 2018 as the defending champions and missed out on making the semifinals, while Maties did not lose  a game (eight wins, two draws) and went all the way to zap a trophy drought dating back to 2010.

Whether a fifth title is in the offing for the Maroon Machine is still too early to tell.

The Winelands outfit kicked off their defence with a 33-17 victory over gutsy Wits before crushing arch-rivals and former two-time champs UCT 66-5 in their backyard.

Inside centre Cornel Smit dotted down four of his side’s 10 tries while No8 Stefan Streicher crossed the whitewash for a seven-point touchdown (teams producing an unbroken move from inside their own half and for a try earn seven points and nine if the conversion is successful).

Tuks began their season with a 23-6 home win over Free State’s CUT before making the short trip to Johannesburg to beat UJ 40-19 (game shifted from its usual Monday slot to Tuesday due to load shedding).

Maties captain Johan Momsen is expecting a tough encounter with their northern rivals.

“It will be a physical confrontation as usual for starters, one we’re up for. They have a young side with big boys and we know we have to front up to them if we want to have a chance of ending up on the right side of the result,” said the hard-working lock who led the side in 2018.

Tuks skipper Marius Verwey rued his side’s silly mistakes against CUT but felt they got better as the game progressed. As for the threat posed by Maties, he said: “They are a good team but we are confident we will beat them in front of our home supporters.”

Other games on Monday see winless UWC (coached by former Springbok Chester Williams) making the trip to Potchefstroom's  Fanie du Toit Sports Grounds to take on 2016 winners Pukke.

Williams’s charges showed promise during their first-round defeat to UCT (32-24), but then travelled to Bloemfontein and were beaten by 2015 champs Shimlas (47-25). Serial finalists Pukke began their quest for a second title with a 23-8 away win over UJ. They had a bye last week so will be fresh for the challenge ahead and should win at a canter.

Perennial strugglers CUT  welcome winless UJ  to their field and will be looking for their first win after back-to-back losses, while Wits entertain Shimlas in a bout that could go either way.

Wits showed up Maties pack first time out but could not match their opponents for all-round skill. They won the next time out against CUT (25-15). Shimmies have not quite been the team that lifted the trophy four years ago. That said, they are always given licence to thrill with their brand of running rugby.