North-West University head coach Alfa Dolopi comes into the 2022 Varsity Football Tournament with a largely inexperienced squad but has boldly stated they are not coming to Johannesburg to simply add numbers in the tournament again.
NWU impressed in the bio-bubble at the University of Pretoria TUKS last season but failed to make the last four as the home side, University of Johannesburg, University of the Western Cape and Wits University progressed to the semi-finals.
While they are very much ranked as underdogs, there will be a clear change in the game plan from last season where they looked mostly to play on the counter.
“Based on our previous tournaments, now we’re trying to emphasise movement off the ball. Last year, if you checked we weren’t so comfortable off the ball, too, so this year we’re looking to keep the ball more,” Dolopi explained.
“So we’ve got a large number of new players this year, I think we’ll have about 10 or 11 players from last year but this time we’ll use more of the newer players, the first years.”
Having to balance the Varsity Football tournament as the second-tier playoffs with his squad, there are opportunities for the new wave of talent to have the platform to impress, Dolopi admitted and he feels there are some even capable of representing South Africa.
“I won’t be utilising most of the key players because next week is the Sasol League play-offs so maybe you will see some of the emerging crops of players there,” he said.
“But I can assure you now we’re not here to add numbers, we want to compete for the title. You will see, I know I’m very ambitious, but I’m realistic too, I do have players who I believe can fit into the Banyana Banyana squad.”
The opening fixture against the University of Limpopo who finished the group stages winless with the Durban University of Technology last time around represents a chance to potentially start the tournament on a positive note, and he didn’t mince his words about the game plan.
“My plan against UL in the opening game is to set the standard, remember, the most important game of the tournament is the first game, to set the tone – I want to throw everything that I have to them,” he added.
“I want to kill the game as early as the first half so that I can rest the players that I want to rest. I can allow other players to get minutes and prepare the team for the second game.”
PLAYER TO WATCH
Zanile Khoza is one to look out for, a pacy and tricky winger that can create and has an eye for goal. She’s been tipped to become one of the latest players to graduate from Varsity Football to national team football.
TEAM FACT FILE
Province: North West
Appearances: Four (2015, 2016, 2017, 2021)
Biggest loss: 3-0 against UWC
Biggest win: 4-1 against VUT
Goalkeepers: Lebogang Maoto, Noluthando Mhlontlo
Defenders: Lebogang Maoto, Hlalefang Moledi, Queen Mphuthi, Amanda Malute, Jabulile Tshabangu, Noluthando Mhlontlo
Midfielders: Tshireletso Kgengoe, Paballo Maphalala, Rebaone Mojahi, Lerato Monate, Zanile Khoza, Flora Khoza, Lesego Sibano, Nolwazi Ncana, Memory Mathe, Gugulethu Nkosi, Kamogelo Mokabane, Kamogelo Mokabane
Strikers: Bonolo Kgomotshwane
Head coach: Alfa Dolopi
Assistant coach: Azanaia Moshushu, Philani Zikalala
Sports Scientist: Dr Adele Broodryk
Physiotherapist: Kgomotso Molapo
Club Administrator: Michael Seleka
Team manager: Queen Mokgosi
Club Manager: Michael Seleka