Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Ilanga school takes the under-12Danone Nations Cup KwaZulu-Natal provincial final title to go through to the National finals

The Danone Nations Cup KwaZulu-Natal provincial finals were held on Saturday 20th May at the Sugar Ray Xulu stadium in Claremont with Mophela Primary School of Ilanga taking the title, via a penalty shootout in the final.  The team will be going to the national finals to be held in Boksburg on 1st July.  The ultimate champion will travel to the USA later in the year to compete in the World Finals.

Mophela also represented KZN in the 2015 Danone Nations Cup national finals but were eliminated in the group stages.

They met Inkunzi Primary School in Saturday’s final, and the scores were locked on 2-all at the end of normal time. So, the game went into penalties and Mophela won the shootout 5-4.

Mophela led twice in the game, only for Inkunzi to equalise both times. Their best player on the day was Ndlovu Njabulo who scored the first goal in the final and the first goal in the penalty shootout. He then swapped kit with the goalkeeper and kept goal in the penalty shootout, and he did all this while carrying a groin injury.

Mophela progressed out of the group stages with one win and one draw. They tied with Muzi Thusi on points but progressed because they beat them on penalties in their head-to-head clash.

In the semifinal they scored in the final minute to beat Dunywa Primary.

Mophela brought with them to the finals the players parents, teachers and pupils and their vocal support was what made the difference in the end.

Siyabonga Ndimande, Mophela’s coach, said the finals were very competitive. “I think what helped us to win was that we know how to fight to get a result. The team never gave up, even though some of the opposition came hard at us,” he said.

“The large group of fans definitely helped us win the tournament, they kept encouraging the team to play their best and never give up even when the opposition scored.”

Ndimande said that the lesson learned at the last national finals was that you should only celebrate when the final whistle has been blown.

“In the 2015 national finals we scored a goal against Nelson Mandela Primary School and thought that we had won the game but the opposition came back at us and equalised. We eventually lost to them on penalties. On Saturday, I told my boys to concentrate on the game. They can celebrate as much as they like afterwards.”

The semifinal and final were very tough, Ndimande admitted. “We scored early in our semifinal against Dunywa, but they came back very quickly to equalise. We had to keep up the pressure and eventually managed to score two goals right at the end of the match to win.

“In the final against Inkunzi, they never gave up. We scored in the first minute of the match and they came back and equalised. Then we scored with very little time left on the scoreboard and Inkunzi, once again, equalised and took us to penalties. My boys never gave up.”

There were some injuries at the provincials, which is worrying, Ndimande said. “They need to rest to be ready for the nationals, but for the other players, we will be training hard.

On the topic of preparations for the nationals Ndimande says that firstly the boys must get used to the cold Gauteng temperatures. “I am going to organise matches against KZN inland teams to experience cold weather.”

Ndimande singles out Ndlovu Njabulo as their best player. “What makes him special is that he is a quick thinker and he is quick with his feet and can dribble well and lastly he is a quick runner. He had a groin strain, but he still played in the final. He is a team player and puts the team’s interests first when he plays. I am hoping he will be fit for the nationals.”

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