Craig Barry  (Maties No15) running with ball in hand - 2017 Varsity Cup, presented by Steinhoff, FNB and STEERS. Monday 27 March 2017
FNB MATIES vs FNB UJ at the Danie Craven Stadium, Stellenbosch, Western Cape


Photo by: Liam Hamer Nel

Five players who made a massive impact in this year’s Varsity Cup

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There was an abundance of talent on display in this year’s FNB Varsity Cup presented by Steinhoff International. While this list does not include all of the top performers, here are five players who have greatly benefitted their teams

Edwill Charl van der Merwe  (Maties No11) trying to run around his opponent - 2017 Varsity Cup, presented by Steinhoff, FNB and STEERS. Monday 06 February 2017 FNB MATIES vs FNB WITS at the Danie Craven Stadium, Stellenbosch, Western Cape Photo by: Liam Hamer Nel

1. Edwill van der Merwe – FNB Maties

Sporting a hairstyle similar to American Football’s icon Odell Beckham Jr., it is impossible to miss Van der Merwe out on the field.

After playing for the Junior Bok squad last year in England, the mercurial winger has been a staple in the FNB Maties side this year, and his clinical running has gone a long way in cementing his team’s place in the final.

Scoring seven tries so far in the competition, there is no doubt that Van der Merwe has enjoyed another fantastic season in the maroon shirt.

2016 FNB Varsity Cup Rugby

2. Aphiwe Dyantyi – FNB UJ

To put it bluntly, the FNB UJ centre’s run in the 2017 Varsity Cup has been electrifying.

Fans, even those of the opposition, were gripped with expectation every time Dyantyi got his hands on the ball.

After the ninth round of the Varsity Cup, Dyantyi had completed the most ball carries (74), beaten the most defenders (26), completed the most line breaks (10) and made the most offloads (19) when compared to the other top four teams.

While it is a shame that we won’t see him lighting up the Varsity Cup final, he can be extremely proud on the run that he and FNB UJ had in the competition.

Craig Barry from FNB Maties scores a try during 2017 Varsity Cup SEMI FINAL 1, presented by Steinhoff, FNB and STEERS. Monday 03 APRIL 2017 FNB MATIES vs FNB UJ at the Danie Craven Stadium, Stellenbosch, Western Cape Photo by: Anton Geyser/SASPA

3. Craig Barry – FNB Maties

FNB Maties’ fullback has managed to impress once again, and he has proven to be a consistent performer over the years.

His partnership with teammate Edwill Van der Merwe has seen the two of them slicing through defences all season long, scoring a total of 16 tries between the two of them.

This year also saw him earning his fortieth cap for FNB Maties in the Varsity Cup. After scoring in their semi-final win against FNB UJ, he is now leading the race for top try scorer with a total of nine tries this season.

2017 Varsity Cup, presented by Steinhoff, FNB and STEERS. Monday February 20th 2017 FNB UJ vs FNB Tuks at UJ stadium Johannesburg. Divan Nel of UJ kicking to the post against Tuks during their varsity cup clash. Photo by: SASPA

4. Divan Nel – FNB UJ

In any sport, clinical finishing is a must. Part of FNB UJ’s successful run this season can be accredited to the boot of Divan Nel, who scored a total of 93 points for his side.

After the semi-final loss to FNB Maties, Nel still had the best success rate when it came to kicking (81% accuracy) and had, at that point, scored 42 more points with his boot than the next person on the list (Tinus De Beer of FNB Tuks).

The points gained from conversions and penalties can be the difference between winning and losing, so having someone like Nel behind the ball is a must.

Mitchell Carsten of Maties during the Varsity Cup match between FNB CUT v FNB Maties held at CUT Stadium in Bloemfontein on March 20, 2017 ©Frikkie Kapp /SASPA

5. Mitchell Carstens – FNB Maties

While it is usually a burst of pace from a backline player that gets the crowd going, one cannot ignore the importance of the relentless work put in by the players on the front line.

In steps Mitchell Carstens, the flank from FNB Maties with an incredible work rate. Having made a whopping 118 this season, Carstens has been a rock on the field during FNB Maties’ road to the final. Missing just seven tackles in nine games, he has also been the most involved FNB Maties player at the breakdown, highlighting the work he’s put in week in and week out to help his team get to where they are.

By Wessley Thring

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