University of Pretoria (TUKS) Women’s Team head coach Maud Khumalo says they are prepared to fight for the title after losing in the final to the University of the Western Cape last season but suggested their rivals are still favourites due to the strength of their squad.
TUKS are still in search of their first-ever title, with TUT (six times), UJ and UWC, the only sides to have lifted the coveted honour.
They surprised many last season by reaching the final where they lost on penalties to UWC but this time around, Khumalo feels they have a better chance due to the increased competition with her playing squad.
“The lesson that I’ve taken is that you always need to be consistent, if I can tell you a little about last year’s team, we were only 13 players and the rest were newcomers, no experience, first years and they never played Varsity Football before,” Khumalo said.
“I’ve learnt as a team if you believe in each other it’s still possible to reach the final. So I think our preparations last year were proper. That’s why we managed to reach the finals.”
“The left centre-back now, she played for the national team Morongwa Manamela, she has the experience, then Mapaseka Mpuru also she is a former Banyana Banyana goalkeeper, she has experience also.
“I coached them in the U17 and U20 national teams, even Betty [Mallela] she also has experience but back then she was a goalkeeper, not a centre-back.”
Khumalo, who holds CAF A and B and Uefa B coaching licences, started working with the Tuks team at the end of 2018.
Before that, she worked in the U17 and U20 national teams as well as the assistant coach to Banyana boss Desiree Ellis back in 2016.
She also coached men’s football with the TUT South campus between 2013 and 2018 and earned a nomination for Coach of the Year for her impressive work with the institution.
When asked about whether TUT can restore the status quo as the dominant force of the competition after missing out on the semi-finals last season, she cast doubt they hold the experience that the likes of UWC have.
“When I look at TUT, those players in the Hollywood Bets Super League are not playing at the Varsity level. So they are still in a rebuilding phase, I can see maybe two, three or four players maybe with them – so I think they will still need to build more to compete with the likes of UWC,” she explained.
“With UWC, most of the girls playing there, I coached them in the U20s, some went with to the World Cup, so they have experience, also playing in the Hollywood Bets. So they might have a disadvantage travelling so much recently.
“But they will be ready to play and defend their title in the tournament, the only thing they need to pray for is maybe avoiding injuries.”
PLAYER TO WATCH
“We have something in a store, I won’t say who it is – let’s just wait and see on Tuesday there will be a surprise for sure,” Khumalo said.
DID YOU KNOW?
— Mapaseka Mpuru played for SA U17, SA U20 and Banyana Banyana. In 2019, she was called up to the Banyana squad for the Fifa Women’s World Cup in France.
— Morongwa Manamela captained the SA U17 and U20 teams.
TEAM FACT FILE
Appearances: Eight (2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2021)
Biggest win: 6-0 against CUT (2019)
Biggest loss: 5-1 against TUT (2016)
Goalkeepers: Slindile Duma, Mamello Lesesa, Mapaseka Mpuru
Defenders: Relebogile Phala, Nomvelo Mkhize, Sinazo Ntlokinendaba, Mmakhgotso Mashishi, Morongwa Manamela, Rylee Arde, Betty Mallela, Bochulo Lumkwana, Olwethu Tetyana
Midfielders: Lethabo Ledwba, Sinamile Mkhwanazi, Thando Khubheka, Ibanathi Msindo, Rethabile Makhwela, Vuyo Xabanisa, Wendy Shongwe, Simamkele Tshuku, Sphesihle Khubheka
Strikers: Sneziwe Nombikal, Lesedi Petlane
Head coach: Muad Khumalo
Assistant coach: Khomotso Mbetse
Goalkeeper coach: Bilal Ntshangase
Physiotherapist: Vuse-umuze Khoza
Team manager: Connie Mnguni
Kit Manager: Sibusiso Masombuka
Event Manager: Khathochelo Mbanda