NWU are the 2019 Varsity Football champions after beating nine-men TUT 1-0 in a hard-fought final in Mafikeng.
The first half took on the complexion of a final, in that both teams were wary of giving the other a clear opening to set the the tone.
That was especially the case in the first 15 minutes when both had their tense and nervy moments. First Mandisi Gadla and Adam Fynn discovered the strength of Mogau Mphahlele in a challenge. Then Lesego Motsepe almost handed a gift to Ronald Mabasa with an under-hit backpass and then Lebogang Phatlane got in the way of a potetially goal-bound shot from Mabasa.
Once things settled, the only openings either team created were from long-range potshots and misdirected crosses.
Nonetheless, Sikhumbuzo Ncube showed his value with a smart parry from an Lindani Nkabinde header after 35 minutes, before Gadla fired the rebound across the face of the goal beyond the out-stretched Fynn.
A minute later both Thuso Mlamla and Motsepe were cautioned for a rough tackle and retaliation respectively – both also had to have their right legs tended too.
In the end, though, the first half ended goalless leaving coaches Karabo Masehela (NWU) and Bushy Moloi (TUT) needing to make plans for the final 45 minutes of this Varsity Football season.
The first ten minutes of the second had much the same feel of the first until a potentially game-changing moment… followed by another not long after.
TUT’s star holding midfielder Mlamla received his marching orders after receiving a second yellow for an innocuous challenge on Lindani Nkabinde.
As it happened, Thabiso Lebitso almost gave TUT the lead straight thereafter when he scuffed an effort wide from a long throw in when he arguably should have scored.
However, worse came for TUT when their captain, Rorisang Rapelang, was also sent for an early shower. The right-back tripped Fynn in a challenge that didn’t need to be made and he had no recourse when referee Thando Ndzandzeka consulted his notepad before showing the red card.
Initially, the defending champions held strong as NWU struggled to work out which would be the best game-plan to overcome nine men.
They finally worked out how when, in the 84th minute Fynn showed fine control to chest the ball, turn his defender and whip in a cross which Gadla should have steered home but Nkabinde – instead – did. It was 1-0 and the Purple Army were on their feet!
NWU attempted to double up in the closing stages without finding an opening and TUT pushed as hard as they could to try find an equalise. However, it was not to be and the Noble Boys were crowned the 2019 Varsity Football champions to claim their first title… and send their fans into delirium.
NWU (0) 1 Lindani Nkabinde
Dismissals: Thuso Mlamla, Rorisang Rapelang
FNB Player of the Match: Lindani Nkabinde (NWU)
Debonairs Pizza Real Deal Save of the Match: Sikhumbuzo Ncube (TUT)
MTN Pulse Moment of Brilliance: Adam Fynn (NWU)
NWU: 28. Luzuko Jevuka (GK), 22. Lesego Motsepe, 3. Wandile Luvuno, 2. Tholinhlanhla Masuku, 8. Kananelo Motsoeneng, 7. Paseka Matsheka (capt), 5. Sibusiso Ndlovu, 6. Lindani Nkabinde, 9. Adam Fynn, 24. Mandisi Gadla, 11. Kagiso Moshotetsi.
Replacements: 27. Kagiso Ramadivhane (GK), 4. Gift Mogorosi, 12. Bongani Taaibosch, 16. Israel Matshane, 21. Banele Hlophe, 23. Simphiwe Mlangeni, 25. Hope Moeng.
Coach: Karabo Masehela
TUT: 20. Sikhumbuzo Ncube (GK), 3. Rorisang Rapelang (capt), 5. Mogau Mphahlele, 16. Boipelo Molale, 2. Tumelo Mphela, 24. Jim Naselele, 6. Thuso Mlamla, 10. Thabiso Lebitso, 21. Tlotlo Afrika, 13. Lebogang Phatlane, 15. Ronald Mabasa.
Replacements: 25. Kgaratlo Phatsoane (GK), 4. Wisdom Mathebula, 8. Tebogo Lekaba, 12. Loatile Tlholoe, 17. Brian Tshoba, 22. Ogorositswe Tabane, 23. Tshepiso Mnisi.
Coach: Bushy Moloi