After 10 weeks, eight teams have become two and an intriguing Varsity Football final is set to take place between NWU and TUT in Mafikeng on Thursday. Who, or what will provide the #Iyachesa moment?
Come 18:00, NWU will host defending champions TUT in a Varsity Football final few could have predicted at the start of the season, never mind just two weeks back before the semi-finals.
Those two matches at UWC Sports Stadium ebbed and flowed, but ultimately produced two worthy finalists, for what should be an intriguing season finale if you consider the following factors:
HISTORY FIRMLY AGAINST NWU
The two teams have met six times previously, but NWU have never won. Their best effort was a 2-2 draw in Pretoria two years back but otherwise they’ve come out on the losing side every other time. That said, there was the 2016 semi-final, which ended 0-0 after 90 minutes, when TUT needed penalties to crush the Noble Boys’ dreams.
The one factor in NWU’s favour is that the difference between the two has never been more than one goal, like it was in this year’s Round 3 when TUT claimed a 2-1 win, and history will mean little when the referee blows the listen on Thursday evening.
BARELY SEPARABLE STATISTICS
While TUT finished second and NWU third after this year’s round robin phase, there is very little to separate the two teams statistically going into the final.
The hosts have scored 10 goals. Meanwhile, TUT have scored one more. Conversely, the Red Machine defence have let in only 7 goals, while NWU have conceded one more.
When it comes to clean sheets, the two teams are level with three – with NWU’s Luzuko Jevuka and TUT’s Sikhumbuzo Ncube highlighting that it will take much to get past them.
In terms of scoring, Noble Boys attacker Simphiwe Mlangeni and TUT striker Ronald Mabasa have both contributed three goals this campaign (one behind tournament-leading Jaydan Petersen of UWC).
RECORDS ON THE CARDS FOR TUT
A few records are within TUT’s grasp during this final. One of which they’ll have to wait until next season for, as they continue to level-peg with UP-Tuks on the all-time table when you consider points gained in round robin matches. They have though, cut the goal difference deficit in half…
Where TUT can also join UP-Tuks is in titles won. UP-Tuks have three (2013, 2014 and 2017) and should The Red Machine match their 2016 and 2018 triumphs they will join their city rivals … and become the second team to manage a title defence.
There is one outright record up for grabs, and that could go to TUT coach Bushy Moloi. He is currently tied with Evangelo Vellios (who coached UP-Tuks from 2013-16) on two titles as coach, but the charismatic TUT mentor now has the chance to hold the record for himself with three titles. One can only imagine his victory ‘jig’ should he do so…
PURPLE ARMY KEY TO DROPPING ‘BRIDESMAID’ TAG
NWU have long ago got sick of being reminded about how well they have done in Varsity Football, without claiming the title.
Just by getting over the semi-final hurdle which they have tripped over three times before, this generation of Noble Boys have already secured their place in NWU history.
However, there’s now one step remaining and their 29-year-old coach Karabo Masehela will do well to remind them of that because, arguably, they won’t get a better chance than on Thursday.
The advantage is that the final is at their home ground in Mafikeng, where their Purple Army make life uncomfortable for the away team. TUT, however, have had two seasons of being the away team – and thrived on it – and the six previous Varsity Football finals have been shared evenly between the hosts and visitors. Thus, it will be imperative for the Noble Boys’ supporters to remain loyal throughout the 90 minutes if they are to tip the odds in their favour.
WHICH PLAYER WILL BE THE HERO?
In the semi-final, Lindani Nkabinde stepped up to be counted for NWU by scoring the last-minute winner which secured the Noble Boys a maiden final. His excellent performances from central midfield is why he is one of the contenders for player of the tournament. Similarly, when Thabiso Lebitso is on the field for TUT, they know that their right-winger will be the go-to man.
Of course, the prospect of being the hero in a final could see any of the 22 players who start the final or any of a possible six substitutes do so. Stay tuned to SuperSport, follow #VarsityDiski match updates on social media or get yourself to NWU-Mafikeng Stadium to see who provides the decisive #Iyachesa moment of Varsity Football 2019!