The football team has enjoyed a wonderful season and is close to clinching their first Varsity Football trophy
Wits Football will be playing in the final of the Varsity Football tournament for the first time in their history after defeating the University of Johannesburg (UJ) 4-3 on penalties on Thursday, September 13.
The tightly-contested semi-final could only be separated by the heroics of Wits goalkeeper Matthew Carelse after he kept the score goalless by saving a penalty in the second half.
He would come to Wits’ rescue again by keeping out two UJ spot kicks in the shootout to hand the Braamfontein boys a spot in the final, for the first time since the competition’s inception in 2013.
Wits Football manager Mark Haskins said the team was excited to be in the final against Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) and would be ready for any obstacles that might come their way.
“We’re ecstatic to be there. We have made history but it is not enough. We want to win it. Since the beginning, we’ve considered ourselves challengers and now we want to go all the way,” Haskins told Wits Vuvuzela.
The season has been one for firsts with the team getting off to its best start in a Varsity Football season, after winning the first two matches for the first time in the competition.
Wits began their 2018 campaign on a high with a come-from-behind win against University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) away from home on July 26.
Goals from Clinton Mphahlele, Sandile Mbatha and Baliwe Moyakhe gave the boys from Braamfontein a 3-2 win over newcomers UKZN.
Haskins believes that getting off to a winning start against UKZN made all the difference.
“We conceded early but the way the guys responded was great. It definitely got us in the right direction and we haven’t looked back since,” he said.
The team continued its impressive start to the season with a 1-0 win over University of the Western Cape courtesy of a late goal from Waylon Rooi in the maiden home match of the season.
The team’s form took a dip, however, with a 2-1 defeat in the Joburg derby at UJ’s Soweto campus on August 8.
The loss was followed by a goalless stalemate against University of Pretoria in Gameweek 4, with Wits’ season beginning to look dim.
However, the boys from Braamfontein responded positively with two consecutive wins against North-West University (NWU) and the University of Limpopo in Gameweek 5 and 6 respectively.
The 2-1 win against NWU was an important one as the team came from behind with two goals from captain Tshiriletso Motsogi and Mahle Mtabane cancelling out Mogomotsi Molefe’s opener.
Defender Kal Laing believes that the game was a statement of intent from the team and proved to all doubters that the team was not just there “to make up numbers”.
“We came from behind and really enforced ourselves in the match. People totally ruled us out of the game. But we proved them wrong.”
These results meant that Wits had already secured a semi-final spot by the time they took on TUT on September 6. The highly entertaining encounter ended in a 4-2 loss for the Witsies.
Captain Tshiriletso Motosgi told Wits Vuvuzela that the loss was tough to take but did not mean that much in the end as they had already qualified.
“We knew the game wasn’t going to be easy. They wanted the semi-final spot and we had already qualified. So we rested a lot of our players.”
The team’s toughest task, however, came in the second Joburg derby with both sides playing for a spot in the final. The top two teams on the log played out one of the most entertaining matches of the season in front of the UJ stands.
The travelling Wits fans came out at full strength and coach Haskins believes that made all the difference.
“The supporters have played a huge role for us. Especially in the semi-final, some players got booed and that really motivated them to give it their all,” he said.
Carelse was awarded the FNB Player of the Match award for his performance in the 4-3 penalty shootout victory and will definitely play a crucial role in the final in front of the home crowd.
Taine Agnew, a supporter of the team, said that he was confident that the trophy would be coming home.
“Wits is definitely taking it. With Matthew (Carelse, the goalkeeper) in the form that he’s in, he’s impenetrable,” the second-year BSc student told Wits Vuvuzela.
The Wits faithful are being encouraged to attend the final, set to be played at the Bidvest Stadium on Thursday, September 27.
“Fans have been coming and it’s been getting better,” said captain Motsogi. “We are now urging them to come support the team and we will give our everything.”
FEATURED IMAGES: Wits players close to clinching Varsity Football trophy Photo: Tshego Mokgabudi
Wits Vuvuzela, Wits Football cement their place in Varsity Football Final, September 2018
Wits Vuvuzela, Celebrating women of prominence in soccer, August 2018