UWC’s Varsity Football 2019 season got off to a stuttering start, but they have since won four home games on the trot and emerged favourites to secure a home final…
Few spectators at UWC Sports Stadium on Thursday, 8 August 2019 would have predicted how the season has unfolded for their boys in blue and gold. The hosts arrived that day on the back of consecutive losses – against returnees UFS and perennial favourites UP-Tuks – while their visitors, CUT, had just a secured a morale-boosting 3-1 win away at UKZN. Moreover, the Free Staters boasted a player with intimate knowledge of the UWC camp within their ranks – Phiwokuhle Mpalala.
The records will show that the likes of Luke Vester kept Mpalala quiet that day, fellow defender Clinton Herwel opened the scoring and the 2-0 win began a run of results that took ‘UDubs’ to the top of the table in time to secure a home semi-final.
“It means everything to the guys as it’s been our goal since the beginning,” says Vester who has combined defensive and leadership duties during Emmanuel Sebareme‘s secondment to UWC’s Varsity Cricket team. Never mind the two goals he has added to UWC’s cause during the course of the season to date.
“We’ve put in the hard work and it’s refreshing to see the fruits of our work.”
Thursday’s clash against NWU (who they beat 3-2 last week), will only be UWC’s third semi-final in Varsity Football history. Back in 2015, they got past Wits via a penalty-shootout on their way to meeting and beating TUT 2-1 in that year’s final.
Two years later, luck wasn’t on their side.
“It’s a great feeling [reaching a home semi-final] because, in 2017, we had an away semi-final and we lost,” the 20-year-old B.Ed student remembers.
Vester, of course, is well aware what helped turn UWC’s 2019 season around and could prove the decisive factor if they’re to match the Class of 2015.
“We call our home ground the ‘Operation Room’ for a reason. No team has gotten any kind of result when traveling to us. We take pride in our fortress and we will continue to do so. The support we get from our fans and supporters play a huge role too.”
Desperate to breach the wall of their proverbial fortress on Thursday, will be NWU. Taking their nickname into account, they will see beating UWC – especially after last week’s dramatic Round 7 clash – as a ‘noble’ pursuit.
“NWU is a very organised and well-conditioned team; they have been our toughest opponents this season,” Vester reveals.
“However, we now know what to expect from them and we go into the game, aware of their strengths as well as their weaknesses.”
The first-ever Varsity Football semi-final double header will take place on Thursday at UWC Sports Stadium. Tickets for both matches are available on the Varsity Sports App (iOS and Android compatible), and they will be broadcast live on SuperSport 204 and 210. Follow @VarsityDiski on social media for match updates.