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In a nail-biting conclusion to what has been dubbed the season of the underdogs, North-West University clinched their first silverware with a 50-37 victory over Maties in the final of the Varsity Netball championship in Stellenbosch, on Monday, 19 October 2015.
After finishing the regular season in fourth place, NWU-Pukke eliminated two-time defending champions Free State in a major semi-final upset to earn their shot at glory, before ensuring their success in the tournament final – strikingly with both knock-out wins won away from home.
The opening exchanges in Monday’s final at the Coetzenburg Indoor Centre were very tense, with both sides determined to fight hard for every ball in front of the partisan capacity crowd.
NWU-Pukke seized the opportunity to convert some early opportunities and build up a handy lead, and put the home side Maties under some scoreboard pressure.
The visitors called the PowerPlay in the first quarter as they looked to drive home their advantage, an inspired decision that saw their advantage swell to 16-4 by the first break.
Maties had their backs against the wall after a frustrating first quarter, and made a determined start to the second quarter as they looked to claw their way back into the game.
However, NWU-Pukke managed to keep them at bay and took a healthy 27-11 lead into the half-time break. The third quarter was more evenly balanced as the teams traded blows, but with their comfortable lead, NWU-Pukke went into the final break 36-21 up.
It was more of the same in the final quarter, and although Maties threw absolutely everything at the Potchefstroom outfit in the final stages, it was not to be as NWU-Pukke held on for a remarkable win to take the title.
Coming into the match, the intense rivalry between the two sides seemed to reveal an advantage for the Stellenbosch side, who had won the last encounter, after the first game between Maties and Pukke was interrupted due to loadshedding.
Maties enjoyed a great season with some standout players. Jo Prins – now in her second season of Varsity Netball, was one of the reasons Maties got the jump on Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) in their first game, and has continued her phenomenal performance.
But it was the determination of UP-Tukke that won them the day in the end, with Nelandre Mostert delivering a superb performance against the powerful UP-Tuks, while Sune Claasens has been rock-solid, and Haike Brink is the recognised playmaker on the court.
In the end, the winners’ rewards was decided in line with the sage prediction of former Pukke captain, Nadia Uys, who has been heavily involved with the team, and predicted that one should never write off the underdog!
FNB Player of the Match: Renske Stoltz
Photo 1 caption: Photos marking the NWU Pukke’s debut win of the Varsity Netball championship, in the 2015 final played at the Coetzenburg Indoor Centre in Stellenbosch on Monday, 19 October 2015. Photo: Thys Lombard
With editing by gsport