The round robin has concluded and we know the identity of the four semi-finalists. Let me start this blog by congratulating log leaders UJ, runners-up UP-Tuks, third-placed TUT and fourth-placed Wits for making the elimination stages.
We also congratulate new kids on the block UKZN and Limpopo for gracing us with their presence. Usual participants UWC and NWU did not have the best of tournaments and they have no one but themselves to blame for their exits.
UWC fell on their own sword after that dramatic 3-3 draw away from home against UKZN when they blew a two-goal lead to drop two points against the competition’s new comers.
The Mother City-based outfit’s poor record away from home also played a huge part in them missing out of the knockout stages. Maybe the boys from Cape Town will come back with renewed energy in the 2019 edition. Well, the less said about NWU the better.
The boys from Mafikeng are the competition’s laughing stock this year. They started the tournament like a house on fire, but suffered a dramatic collapse when they lost three games on the trot. They promised so much but delivered so little and they have no one to blame but themselves. They made their own bed and now they must lie in it.
The new boys UKZN’s departure came down to their leaky defence. They played the majority of their matches at home but failed to make the advantage count in their favour.
Maybe stage fright had a lot to do with their inconsistent performances. But they drew some valuable lessons which they can bring back in the competition, if they manage to qualify next year. Limpopo had a tournament to forget and they were every team’s punching bug.
Losing six matches and registering just one draw is a bad record as they conceded 14 goals in two games, in the 7-1 and 7-0 defeats to UJ and UWC. It has been an interesting tournament and it was often unpredictable as teams exchanged the lead at the top of the tournament. It took the last match to determine which team would walk away with the wooden spoon.
We are entering the business end of the tournament and there are four big guns remaining. But only one team will be left standing after the exciting 10 weeks of exhilarating football.
We have been treated to incredible football in the past seven weeks and there are just three weeks to go before a new champion is crowned.
The semi-final is not for the feint hearted. There are no second chances if you lose, you’re out. It’s as simple as that. The form books in the mini league count for nothing. The semi-final requires nerves of steel to get through to the final.
There are just two matches to go and a new champion will be decided. UJ have been in superb form in the mini league stages, but that will count for nothing if they don’t rise to the occasion.
Out of the four semi-finalists, only UJ and Wits have not lifted the trophy in the tournament’s six-year history. UJ have lost twice in the final to Tuks in 2013 and to TUT in 2016, while Wits have never reached the cup final.
Three teams except for Wits, know what it takes to get to the final as they have been there before. It’s not easy – there will be tears at the sound of the referee’s final whistle on Thursday.
Good luck to the teams that are contesting the semi-final.
By Charles Baloyi – Daily Sun and Sunday Sun sports writer