The battle for the bragging rights to being the best university football team in South Africa is what Thursday’s Varsity Football final between UP-Tuks and TUT is going to be.
Purely judging by the results in the build-up to the final, TUT must be considered the favourites to defend their Varsity Football title. They are the only unbeaten team in the competition winning five of their seven games and drawing two. TUT is also the team with the biggest goal difference in the tournament.
UP-Tuks won four of their seven games, lost one and drew two.
Then again, football can be a funny old game in which match statistics don’t count for much. There is no truer saying than the one about no game ever being won or lost on paper. Come Thursday it will be all about which team wants it the most.
It will the third time since July that UP-Tuks and TUT will clash. The previous two games turned out to be real thrillers. TUT won the USSA final on a penalty shootout while in the first Varsity Football encounter TUT only managed to draw level in the dying minutes of the game.
There is some talk about the home ground advantage and passionate crowd support that will favour TUT.
However, Tisane Motaung (UP-Tuks head coach) is not too fazed about having to play at TUT.
“There are times when the crowd seemingly becomes the 12th man on the field through their vocal and fanatical support. That could be intimidating. The reality, however, is that Tuks never lost against TUT on their home ground. In the past, we either won or drew. When we lost against TUT, we played at Tuks.”
Motaung was not prepared to elaborate on what it would take to win apart from reiterating it takes scoring goals to win matches.
“I think anyone who has seen us play against TUT in the USSA final and seen us play recently will admit that it is two different Tuks teams. In the USSA final we set up countless opportunities to score goals but failed to do so. That has changed. The players are now able to finish off what they started. The results of our last few games prove it.
“My advice to my players on Thursday will be, let’s go and ‘suffocate’ TUT meaning that we should not give them time and space on the ball. The more we can do so the more frustrated they will become. That would lead to them making mistakes which hopefully will lead to us being able to score goals.”
The good news for Tuks is that their regular captain, Lawrence Ntshwane has recovered from the ankle injury he sustained in the game against CUT and will be playing in the final.
Motaung emphasised that he wanted to thank the UP-Tuks supporters for the way they stuck with the team particularly at the beginning of the Varsity Tournament when the chances of the team qualifying for the final looked slim.
“This I can guarantee. On Thursday we will be playing to reward our fans for their loyalty.”