The Madibaz men’s football team is determined to capitalise on their promotion to the top-flight by finishing in the top eight when the University Sport South Africa tournament takes place next week.
The annual competition will be held at Wits in Johannesburg from December 2 to 6, with the Nelson Mandela University squad’s main aim being to qualify for Varsity Football in 2020.
The top eight teams will be included in Varsity Football next year and Madibaz, who were USSA champions in 2011, are determined to make the cut.
Captain Samuel Connelly said they would be banking on a team effort, but added that a number of players would have key roles.
“Much is expected from standout player Lubabalo Dimane, who has been in excellent form in the SAB League, delivering consistently week in and week out,” he said.
“In addition, our Nedbank Ke Yona star Siwaphiwe Maso, who is still training with Baroka FC [a PSL club], is showing all the signs of a player ready for the big leagues and is raring to stamp his mark at the nationals.”
A big plus for them, he added, was having former South African star Elrio van Heerden on their technical committee.
“His influence on the playing style and individual player performances has shown in the SAB games.
“Furthermore, the Madibaz High-Performance Centre is also on board in terms of the player fitness and performance programme.
“This scientific monitoring of the player loads and performance is essential in ensuring the team peaks at the right time.”
The 20 teams competing in the USSA tournament will be divided into four groups. The top two sides in each group will qualify for the top-eight play-offs and the Varsity Football slots for 2020.
Madibaz are in group D and will be up against the University of Western Cape, University of Johannesburg, Central University of Technology and Vaal University of Technology.
Connelly said it was essential to adapt quickly to the Highveld conditions.
“We will be facing games played at a much faster pace compared to the rest of South Africa.
“In Port Elizabeth, and the Eastern Cape in general, the pace of play is generally slower than in Gauteng, so that is something we will need to get used to pretty quickly.”
The Madibaz women’s team produced their best performance when they finished sixth in the 2010 tournament in Grahamstown.
Captain Ayabulela Ndyebi said they would be looking to at least match that, although they had been drawn in a tough group.
“We are playing in group C and will be up against UJ, University of Limpopo, Rhodes, and University of Zululand. Johannesburg and Limpopo are among the favourites so we will need to be at our best during the week.”