Thursday, October 1, 2015

Gauteng Schools could dominate the Kay Motsepe Schools Cup national finals

The provincial finals are over and the 18 winning schools will be making their way to the Nike Centre, Soweto, Gauteng between the 7th and 10th October to compete in the under-19 Kay Motsepe Schools Cup national finals.

Up for grabs is R1 million first prize with the runners-up taking home R600 000, third place and fourth place finishers get R500 000 and R400 000 respectively.  On top of this the nine Provincial winners have each already won R100 000.  The winnings are not handed over in cash but have to be spent on legacy projects identified by the school.

Gauteng province has done well in recent years – schools from the province won the title in 2013 and 2014 – and the province will be sending two quality teams to the finals this year again.

The Gauteng champions this year are one of the most famous of South Africa’s soccer nurseries, the SAFA Transnet Football School of Excellence, and they will be joined by runners-up, and also 2013 champions, Clapham High School, which will comprise players that from the Mamelodi Sundowns Youth Academy.

Although the School of Excellence has no players that are attached to a professional club, coach, Gaven Silango believes they are ready for the challenge and hoping to return to the days when they dominated this competition (2012 champions). “It’s been a great comeback year for us in this competition,” he said. “We haven’t been at this level for a while, but our performance so far this year bodes well.”

The team has been busy since winning the Gauteng title – they play in local league competitions – and they are playing lots of warmup matches to keep the momentum going.

“We recently played in a tournament in Polokwane that involved their provincial champions, Benny’s Sports Development and Academy, and our local rivals, Clapham, and, although we lost in the semifinals, it was great experience for the team.

“I got to study Clapham, whom we beat in the provincial final, to see if they have grown from the last time we played against them and I also got watch Benny’s play for the first time. They are unbeaten in Limpopo and will be a factor at the nationals.”

Sibongakonke Mbatha, one of the team’s stars, has been called up for the national team for the under-17 World Cup, so they will have to do without him, but Silango says they have enough back up. “It’s great to have players called up for national duty, the more they play in these tournaments the more exposure they get and the better they get. We obviously do need him in the team but there is not much we can do about it.”

School of Excellence is known for playing entertaining football, and Silango said that it’s in their culture to be different from the rest.

“We have a team that is committed and we are used to playing on the artificial pitch at the Nike Centre and believe this can work to our advantage. We are not intimidated by Clapham, and expect to meet them again at the nationals,” Silango concluded.

Clapham High School’s manager Johannes Petje, believes that losing to School of Excellence in the Gauteng final was good thing because it was a wake up and brought the team together.

“The team took a hard knock from that loss, but I think that it was good for us to lose because the boys were starting to be too complacent. Some of the players were playing for themselves. We have talked about this with the team and they finally understand how important it to play as a unit. We are optimistic about the nationals.”

Apart from the Polokwane tournament, the team has been competing in the local leagues as preparation for the nationals.  “However most of the players are in grade 12 and have been writing exams so training has been kept to a minimum for the last couple of week but from this week we have been back in full action.”

Clapham will be missing three players who are in the SA under-17 team. Thendo Makumela, Walter Kubheka and Notha Ngcobo won’t be there, and they also have a couple of injuries, so they are busy preparing their reserves.

Petje said he has been doing research on the teams that have qualified, and he thinks the Free State schools will definitely be in the running for the grand prize. “Both teams that have qualified from there are very strong and will be competitive,” he said.

He also has a lot of respect for School of Excellence. “They are a very organised team and they believe in one another which shows when they play.”

“We are looking forward to playing against all the schools. We have a lot of newcomers this time around, we don’t really know what they are capable of so we are not underestimating anyone.”

The pressure is on for the two Gauteng teams, Petje said. “I think Clapham will definitely be in the top 2 at the end. I’m not sure who will be joining us. It could be a Free State team - HTS Louis Botha surprised us back in 2013 when they made it to the final. Ever since then I know not to underestimate any team.”

Games on each day commence at 9am and continue till 5pm.  The third/fourth play-off will take place on Saturday at 10am with the final kicking-off at 12.30pm.
The participating teams are:
·        Walmer High School-Eastern Cape
Pangalele Senior Secondary School-Eastern Cape
HTS Louis Botha-Free State
Dr Reginald Cingo Secondary School-Free State
SAFA Transnet Football School-Gauteng
Clapham High School-Gauteng
Sukuma Comprehensive School-KZN
Ingabade High School-KZN
Benny’s Sports Development & Academy-Limpopo
Mammoka High School-Limpopo
Sizwakele Secondary School-Mpumalanga
Kriel Hoerskool-Mpumalanga
Groblershoop High School-Northern Cape
Weslaan Hoerskool-Northern Cape
Tshedimosetso Secondary School-North West
Itshupeng Secondary School-North West
Desmond Mpilo Tutu Secondary School-Western Cape

Excelsior High School-Western Cape

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