TUT and UWC have met in the Varsity Women’s Football final three times in the previous four years, but can anything differentiate their fourth clash on Thursday from those that have gone before?
The Varsity Women’s Football final has a well-known script: UWC arrive confidently, but TUT walk away champions. More than that, the women in red have been such a machine that Thursday’s match in Mafikeng (15:30 kick-off) will extend their ever-presence in all the finals, with only the first back in 2013 against UJ going against them.
So badly did they lose that final, 0-6, that it’s arguably the fuel which they have used to become so unstoppable.
Title number 7 must surely await TUT on Thursday afternoon in Mafikeng, right? Or perhaps there are factors which could end their reign…
ADDED TIME HEROICS NEEDED BY TUT
TUT had one of their more complicated routes to the final this time around. Drawn in a group with neighbours UP-Tuks and the Bloemfontein-based pair of CUT and UFS, the five-time defending champions were expected to cruise through in Potchefstroom.
A 1-1 draw against UP-Tuks was followed by a 5-0 cruise over CUT before a 6-0 thrashing of UFS. That match against Kovsies was a group decider, and coach Sipho Mabuza relied on his star players for a second game in a day.
TUT, with weary legs, were then pushed to the limit by UJ in Saturday morning’s semi-final. Nonetheless, the favourites showed their champion’s class by scoring the winner three minutes into the referee’s optional time to book their trip to Mafikeng.
UWC HAVE IT EASIER
UWC, themselves, were tested by UJ too when the Orange Army held them to a 1-1 draw in their tournament opener in Potchefstroom.
From then on, however, coach Thinasonke Mbuli’s charges filled their boots. First UKZN were thrashed 10-2 (the highest score of the three days in Potch), before they made short work of UniZulu in a 3-0 win.
Considering how well UFS went in their group, a reasonably tough semi-final might have been expected but UWC summarily dismissed them, 7-0, to head to Mafikeng brimful of confidence.
GOAL THREATS CLEAR TO BOTH TEAMS
Considering how the scoring went in Potchefstroom, it’s clear to see who the players to watch for at NWU-Mafikeng Stadium are.
UWC blasted home 21 goals over the weekend, with six players (seven if you include the own goal they benefitted from) finding the net. Two of those, Janice Smith and Mbaliyethu Mhlongo helped themselves to six goals each to top the scoring charts. Khanya Xesi broke into the starting XI and promptly netted three times, the same as midfield schemer Babalwa Mngxunya. Nolubabalo Sishuba and Tshegofatso Senanya rounded off UWC’s scoring in Potch.
TUT, meanwhile, shared their 13 goals among five players. Intriguingly, with captain Hildah Magaia (3) and left-back Gabonnelwe Kekana (4) having contributed seven goals it’s clear to see which flank UWC will have to keep a close eye on.
Nonetheless, with Senamile Zulu, Nomhle Sangweni (3) and Lesego Mashifane also having scored, TUT have shown that there is variation to their attack too.
BANYANA PLACES UP FOR GRABS
National women’s team coach Desiree Ellis will be at the final in Mafikeng with vested interest.
Banyana Banyana have had a busy 2019 with the pinnacle being their participation at the World Cup in France, followed by success in the COSAFA Women’s Championship and a blip when they stumbled in the 2020 Olympic Games qualifiers. As a result the squad is in a transitional phase where current success has to be mixed with preparing for future challenges.
The aforementioned Khanya Xesi (UWC) is among a group of talented youngsters aiming to secure a regular place in Ellis’s squad, and it’s much the same for TUT’s Hildah Magaia. UWC captain Bongeka Gamede has that status they’re after; but big matches is when big players need to deliver so the expectation on Gamede, Magaia and Xesi to show their worth – never mind those trying to catch Ellis’s eye – will be ramped up and could prove deciding factors.
Stay tuned to SuperSport 204 or 210 at 15:30, follow #VarsityDiski match updates on social media or get yourself to NWU-Mafikeng Stadium to see who provides the decisive #Iyachesa moment of Varsity Women’s Football 2019!