The 2019 Varsity Football final will take place in Mafikeng after NWU shocked table-toppers UWC 1-0 at their ‘Operation Room’ on Thursday evening.
The second game of the semi-final double header held at UWC Sports Stadium started like a house on fire. Even the rain couldn’t douse this intriguing encounter.
Following a pulsating match last week, when UWC broke NWU hearts with a 3-2 win, both coaches made changes to their side. UWC’s Stanton Smith brought back club captain Emmanuel Sebareme (who spent last week in Potchefstroom playing Varsity Cricket last week) and he replaced the injured Ntembeko Daweti. Meanwhile, visiting coach Karabo Masehela reinstated Lindani Nkabinde to the starting line-up and handed a first start of the season to Kagiso Moshotetsi.
Interestingly, as the rain showers stopped so the game speed seemed to drop, with no clear goal scoring opportunities opening up.
As a result, the battle in the midfield was the only thing entertaining in the first half. The wet surface also played a role in players slipping, misdirecting passes and committing unplanned fouls.
The first half was thus a closely contested affair, and the 0-0 half-time score was no surprise.
With a place in the final to play for against defending champions TUT (and the hosting thereof), the second half had to live up to the expectations. Also, a large crowd braved the cold in Bellville, including healthy contingent from Mafikeng who kept singing and rallying behind their boys on the field.
NWU were the first one to make a change as they brought in Banele Hlophe for their leading scorer Simphiwe Mlangeni – a like for like change in attack. With the clock ticking, the battle in the wet ‘Operation Room’ intensified with both sides pushing for the winner and that was evident as both coaches were shouting instructions from the touchline.
In the 78th minute substitute Hlophe had a chance to take the lead for his side after Abdel-Hakeem Mohammed misjudged his header but the striker saw his shot roll into the hands of Aidan Leak.
The game looked destined for a penalty shootout (like the first semi-final) when everything changed in the referee’s optional time.
Lindani Nkabinde, who had attempted a range-finder earlier, broke the hearts of UWC with a cracker of a shot from 25 yards which left Leak well beaten. The home crowd were stunned and the home players were stunned but as the final whistle went the Noble Boys from North-West University duly celebrated a first-ever Varsity Football final, and the opportunity of making history.
NWU (0) 1 Lindani Nkabinde
FNB Player of the Match: Sandile Mdluli (UWC)
Debonairs Pizza Real Deal Save of the Match: Aidan Leak (UWC)
MTN Pulse Moment of Brilliance: Lindani Nkabinde (NWU)
UWC: 1. Aidan Leak (GK), 5. Clinton Herwel, 24. Abdel-Hakeem Mohamed, 6. Luke Vester, 9. Emmanuel Sebareme (capt), 26. Sandile Mdluli, 15. Kyle Segers, 10. Stefan Stuurman, 21. Siphosethu Meveni, 17. Leandro De Sousa, 7. Jaydan Petersen.
Replacements: 27. Ryan Ramandh (GK), 2. Azola Ntsabo, 4. Linamandla Mchilizeli, 11. Charlton Fritz, 14. Deflandre De Lange, 23. Bulelani Ngidi, 25. Dawood Lawrence.
Coach: Stanton Smith
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, 23. Simphiwe Mlangeni, 24. Mandisi Gadla, 11. Kagiso Moshotetsi.
Replacements: 27. Kagiso Ramadivhane (GK), 4. Gift Mogorosi, 9. Adam Fynn, 12. Bongani Taaibosch, 16. Israel Matshane, 21. Banele Hlophe, 25. Hope Moeng.
Coach: Karabo Masehela
By Dumisani Koyana