The University of Pretoria qualified for a home semi-final despite starting their title defence on the back foot. They enjoyed a good run of results in the latter stages of Varsity Football which included the 3-0 drubbing of the University of the Western Cape to clinch a spot in the top four on the log.
The Stripe Generation did what was needed against UWC but a different challenge awaits in the semi-final as they will face Pretoria rivals, the Tshwane University of Technology, with the hope of getting the result against a team that beat them 2-1 in their opening fixture of this year’s Varsity Football campaign as several players are competing in their swansong tournament for UP-Tuks.
Midfielder Claudio De Almedia is one player who is in his final year of representing UP-Tuks in South Africa’s premier university football competition with the 25-year-old second year LLB student having featured for UP-Tuks in four editions of Varsity Football.
De Almeida admits that there was a few nerves ahead of the meeting with UWC as the defending champions had to not only win but be wary of their discipline.
“It is no secret that we struggle against UWC away and we were anxious in the lead up to the match but we knew that if we did not concede an early goal that we had a shot of grabbing the win. By halftime we were up by two goals which allowed us to settle,” said De Almedia, who also holds a BComm Business Management degree from the University of Pretoria.
“We also had the challenge of discipline against UWC as quite a few players are sitting on yellow cards which meant that we needed to play safe because if one of us were to be carded we would miss out on selection for the semi-final. Management ensured that this was taken care of after we made it three nil and substitutions were made, including myself, to remove the possibility of any of us being carded,” he added.
UP-Tuks are notorious for starting their season slowly which is something that motivates the team as they excel under pressure. It is this pressure that will once again be at the forefront as they prepare to take on TUT at home in front of the UP-Tuks faithful.
“I have spent four seasons with UP-Tuks and we have noticed a trend in the media as we are always written off before the season is in full swing. We would obviously love to get the results from the get go but we also would rather finish strong. I believe we strive under pressure and that this was evident in our last few outings,” said De Almedia.
“Personally, I was happy that we got TUT instead of Wits as we get another chance to get one over our rivals. It is even more special that we get to do it in front of our incredible supporters. They deserve to be recognized as their support lifts our game and we hope we can do them justice come match day,” he added.
UP-Tuks host TUT in the first Varsity Football semi-final at the Tuks Stadium on Thursday, 13 September. Kick-off is at 16:00 with the match being broadcast live on SuperSport.
By Dan Lombard