AmaTuks secured the National First Division (NFD) title and the promotion to the Premier Soccer League (PSL) when they beat FC Cape Town 2-0 at Absa Tuks Stadium on Wednesday 9 March. AmaTuks will now compete in South African football’s top professional division against the likes of Orlando Pirates, Kaizer Chiefs, Mamelodi Sundowns and Supersport United next season.
“I’m very, very proud of our team. We’ve had a good run, only losing two games in 2012 and going 17 games unbeaten,” said a delighted AmaTuks coach, Steve Barker, after the game. “We had a bit of a wobble mid-season but we showed good character to come back, so I’m very proud of the players,” Barker told Perdeby.
AmaTuks dominated the opening minutes of the match against FC Cape Town and took the lead in the ninth minute when Setjhaba Mmuso tapped in Esau Mtsweni’s cross after a great through ball from Aubrey Ngoma. Six minutes later, the home side had their second as Thokozani Sekotlong’s cross deflected off Ngoma before Mtsweni slotted it coolly past the FC Cape Town keeper. AmaTuks delighted the home crowd with some great passing football and were by far the better side as the first half ended 2-0.
AmaTuks had the first chance of the second half from a free-kick 25 yards out, but Sibusiso Themba blasted his effort over the bar. Chances were few and far between for the visitors but in the 51st minute Mzuvele Skhosane hit a stinging shot from long range which AmaTuks keeper, Siya Mngoma, fumbled before managing to recover.
In the 65th minute Steve Barker made two substitutions, bringing on Philani Khwela and Mpho Maruping for Themba and Sekotlong respectively, as AmaTuks slowed the game down. FC Cape Town found it difficult to play through the AmaTuks defence and resorted to taking shots from outside the penalty area. Centre-back Siya Shoyisa produced a brilliant defensive display forAmaTuks.
AmaTuks showed good tactical discipline and attempted to run the clock down in the last few minutes but still had chances to get a third goal as Ngoma and Khwela both had shots saved late on. After four minutes of added time the final whistle sounded, prompting celebrations from the crowd and players alike.
The win meant AmaTuks took an unassailable six point lead, due to their far superior goal difference, over second-placed Blackburn Rovers and booked their place among South African football’s elite.
Barker is confident that his side is strong enough to compete well in the PSL and is adamant that AmaTuks aren’t going there just to make up the numbers. “One wouldn’t work so hard to get to the PSL just to make up numbers. Four years ago we had a speaker from Australia, Wayne Goldsmith, here and he told us you’ve got to train, you’ve got to plan and be smarter than the league above you so that when you get there you stay there. We already do things better than many PSL teams. We’ve got the best facilities and great management support structures, so in my opinion, it’s the right time for us to go up. I’m very confident that we can go into the PSL and be competitive,” said Barker.
TuksFootball Manager, Kenneth Nevhulalani, expressed his satisfaction at the promotion. “It’s great thing for the university in terms of improving our profile and I think we have a model which can motivate others,” he said. Nevhulalani also ended speculation surrounding where AmaTuks would play PSL home games, with reports suggesting an alternative stadium would be used due to the unsatisfactory conditions of the Absa Tuks Stadium changing rooms. “We are going to play our home games here (Absa Tuks Stadium). This is where our fans are and where we want to build our brand. There’s no point getting promoted and then moving away from the fans,” said Nevhulalani.
AmaTuks face Thanda Royal Zulu on Sunday 20 May at Absa Tuks Stadium in the final NFD game of the season. Make sure you get down to UP Sports Campus to join in the PSL promotion celebrations.
See our interview with Steve Barker here or @Perdeby7411d.
Photos: Kobus Barnard