Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

Chris Smit is R20,000 richer and scored a rented car for life after scooping the Varsity Cup Overall Player that Rocks award on Monday night.

The Maties inside centre, who has made 30 Varsity Cup (VC) appearances, produced outstanding performances throughout the 11th edition of the tournament, which saw his side go unbeaten and crowned champions for the second year running and fifth time overall.

“I’m surprised I won the award,” he said. “I just want to thank the Stellenbosch Rugby Club for all they’ve done for us and to my teammates, great job manne [men].”

He left for Kimberley on Tuesday to further his rugby career with the Griquas senior team.

Maties will be gunning for a second hat-trick of titles in 2020. Three-time champs Tuks came to a packed Danie Craven Stadium as underdogs and returned home a well-beaten lot, going down 34-12.

It was no repeat of the 2013 final at the same venue that saw the men from Pretoria taming their Stellenbosch counterparts and racking up a record score, winning 44-5.

Maties were a class above on the night in front of a 20,000-strong crowd and will look back on their efforts that produced records for most log points (38 from a possible 40) in the Group Stage (nine teams), biggest points differential and most tries (63).

Kudos to Maties coach Hawies Fourie who in his fourth year at the helm has never missed out on a final. His charges have not tasted defeat since losing to Tuks in the 2017 final and are on a 20-game unbeaten run (10-0 this season).

Importantly, they have the utmost respect for him and showed it by putting their bodies on the line every time they went into combat. Fourie was nearly lost to Maties rugby after his three-year contract expired in 2018. It was touch-and-go whether he would be rehired, and just as well that he was for another year.

His overall record since assuming the role in 2016 stands at 33 wins, two draws and four losses. He is the first coach in the VC to reach four consecutive finals. But he is not one to hog the spotlight, preferring instead to heap praise on his young squad for their hard work and desire to be the best they can.

“It’s an absolute pleasure to coach a bunch of guys who give you 100% at training and on match day,” he said. “It has been a team effort from game one to the end. What makes them so good is when they have the opposition on their knees, they don’t slack, they play to the final whistle.

“In previous seasons when we’ve opened up a winning score, we’ve allowed teams back into the contest. There’s always going to be players you believe are destined for higher honours and we have a number of them,” he added.

“Chris [Smit] has come on tremendously since my arrival. He was a flyhalf back in 2016 who wasn’t the best goalkicker in the land, so I decided to move him one place out, and how he’s thrived as an inside centre with his vision, communication and decision-making, and those cross kicks have led to a number of tries, as we saw in the final.

“Leftwing Edwill van der Merwe [Backline Player that Rocks award] should have already played Super Rugby — he’s that special, as shown by his 23-try overall haul in the competition.

“Jordan Chiat enjoyed a breakthrough season. He wasn’t our first-choice pivot at the start of the campaign, but when he got the chance to play, he took it, played well and I couldn’t leave him out.

“His eye for the gap and speed off the mark earned him six tries and he had something like an 80% goal-kicking success rate. Those who labelled him a weak defender might want to watch the final — he got stuck in.

“Anton du Toit [fullback] has what it takes too. Among the forwards who as a unit excelled in their primary roles, the likes of Daniel Jooste [hooker], Sazi Sandi [tighhead prop] and Ben-Jason Dixon [lock] delivered the goods on a regular basis.

“Our captain, Chris Massyn, took the fight to the opposition time and time again. These blokes should be playing senior rugby sooner rather than later.”

Tuks didn’t go away empty-handed, with Denzill Hill scooping the Forward Player that Rocks award.