CLAPHAM High School, comprising the Sundowns Academy players, beat their fierce Pretoria local rivals, Rosina Sedibane Sports School, in an inter-regional final match to reach the provincial finals of the Kay Motsepe Schools Cup.
The competition will be held at the Nike Centre, Soweto on Monday, August 10.
It was a tough encounter explains the team manager, Johannes Petje. “Rosina and Clapham have been rivals from way back. We have played against each many times and every game is a challenge because we know each other’s weakness and strengths so we continuously have to change our game plan and approach.”
It’s great being back in the Kay Motsepe Schools Cup, sponsored by Sanlam and the Motsepe Foundation, Petje said. “We are slowly but surely reclaiming our position in the tournament. Schools football is an ever-changing sport, one year you are champs and the next year you’re not. All schools lose players every year who move on, and sometime you lose your best players.
Last year Clapham were knocked out at the provincial level. “A lot of factors attributed to that loss, one being that we didn’t have the majority of our players due to national call-ups. This year we have a plan B should call-ups be made,” said Petje. “We have a few good players in our under-17 squad who we are training and preparing should we need them to fill in for the first team.”
Petje believes their absence last year might give them an edge because the other teams may underestimate them. “I advise them not to do this. We have learnt from our previous mistake and the boys are hungry to prove themselves,” he said.
The team obviously wants to do better than last year. “At the beginning of the year our main focus was to qualify for the inter districts. Now that this has been achieved we are shifting our focus and energy onto the provincials. It’s a level we are not taking lightly, considering the fact that we were knocked out at this level last year.”
The team is working hard, and not taking anyone lightly. “All the schools are considered competition regardless of whether they are academy-affiliated or not. There is a lot at stake in this tournament and everyone wants a piece of the pie.
“Beating Rosina is a big hurdle overcome,” said Petje. “Our biggest advantage is the fact that our team is more exposed to high levels of soccer as they get to compete in more competitive tournaments than some of the other schools.
“We have a group of focused boys and with the coaching of Mike Manzini we are sure that we will be at the nationals this year. Our task right now is getting these boys used to playing on an artificial pitch. We have arranged a few games for them to get used to that type of field. We feel we are 95% ready for the provincials.”