If there is one football game Pretoria’s football fans should make sure not to miss it will be Thursday’s encounter with TUT.
Boring is the last word that will be used to describe the “90 minute battle” between the defending Varsity Football champions, UP-Tuks, and the runners-up, TUT. There is just something about this derby that gets players to lift their game.
Last year the players’ passion led to three enthralling encounters. TUT managed to beat UP-Tuks 5-4 in a penalty shootout during the final of the USSA Tournament. Things were not any less exciting in the first Varsity Football encounter. TUT secured a draw in the dying minutes. But in the end when it mattered most, Tuks ended up winning by beating TUT 2-0 in the Varsity Football final.
In doing so, UP-Tuks ensured that they became the most successful team in the history of the tournament. They were also victorious in 2013 and 2014. Tuks did not perform to their best during the recent USSA Tournament. The team’s biggest frustration was losing vital games during penalty shootouts.
Simbongile Njokwe (Tuks captain) admitted it is something they need to work on.
“We only conceded a handful of goals during the last three USSA tournaments. However, the reality is that if you don’t score goals, there is no way you can win. Our defensive play is our strength but so is scoring goals. The challenge for the duration of the tournament will not only be to create goal scoring chances but to make it count. I believe we can.”
During last year’s tournament Tuks initially also battled to score but then the players fine-tuned it to an art. In their last four pool games, they scored 11 goals conceding only one. The captaincy is nothing new to Njokwe. He led with distinction when Lawrence Ntshwane was injured during last year’s tournament.
“I realise that with captaincy comes responsibility however it tends to be easy when you play for Tuks. It is because it is all about carrying on the proud Tuks football legacy. I can honestly say it is a case of all for one and one for all. Everyone knows what is at stake each time we don the ‘Striped Jersey’.”
According to Njokwe he never lacks for motivation.
“Whenever I take to the field it is about what is best for the team. I will fight every minute to help get the result we want,” said Njokwe who is competing in the Varsity Football tournament for the fifth time.
Only Richard Moremi, six, has played more tournaments for Tuks. As a centre back Njokwe does not get the opportunity to score often, but he can keep a ‘cool head’ when it really matters. A definite highlight last year for him was when he headed the ball into the back of the goal net during the final against TUT. He is looking forward to Thursday’s rematch.
“There is no better way to start the Varsity campaign than to play the best first. It makes it easy to get motivated. It is going to a big one. I believe we won’t disappoint our fans.”
Here’s what happened last time they met!
Kickoff at Tuks is at 18:15.
By Wilhelm de Swardt