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HomeDStv Diski Challenge2022/23 DStv Diski Challenge Champions Confirmed

2022/23 DStv Diski Challenge Champions Confirmed

SuperSport United have won the 2022/23 DStv Diski Challenge after Cape Town City lost their match on Sunday.

Over the past few weeks, a tight race at the top of the DStv Diski Challenge has garnered a lot of interest in the development competition.

SuperSport United, Orlando Pirates and Cape Town City were involved in the battle for the title, and after this weekend’s games SSU were confirmed as successors to Stellenbosch.

Matsatsantsa beat Swallows 3-0 on Saturday, while Orlando Pirates drew 0-0 with Richards Bay. The celebrations started on Sunday, after Cape Town City lost 2-1 to TS Galaxy.

And while we’d like to congratulate coaches Thabo September and Roscoe Krieling, and everyone at the club on lifting their first Diski Challenge title, we would like to use this opportunity to remind football fans (and the clubs), that lifting this trophy means very little if the players in that victorious setup do not progress to the clubs’ first teams.

So while we will celebrate Matsatsantsa’s title, the real test will come in the coming seasons as we see which of their players graduate to senior football, and how long it takes.

Since the launch of the competition back in 2014, six clubs have won the trophy. Two of those clubs – Bloemfontein Celtic and Bidvest Wits – no longer exist, while AmaTuks are now in the second tier.

AmaTuks won the inaugural tournament but were relegated from the DStv Premiership in the following season. Most of the players who were part of that team are no longer prominent, but there are a few notable exceptions. Grant Kekana was in that squad (and also in the first team) and he has grown in leaps and bounds. After a good run after moving to SuperSport United, he went on to become a Bafana Bafana international and league champion at Mamelodi Sundowns. Siphelele Luthuli has played at a few clubs since his Tuks’ days and is currently at Chippa United. Former AmaZulu and Stellenbosch defender Alan Robertson was also a part of the squad.

The only two-time winners, Golden Arrows, were first victorious in the 2015/2016 campaign, before winning it again two years later. Arrows’ success during this period had a big impact on their first team too, and many of those who starred for their Diski team graduated into the senior side. The KwaZulu-Natal club have always had a decent development system and players like Nkosinathi Sibisi (now at Orlando Pirates), Nkosi Gumede, Nduduzo Sibiya, Seth Parusnath (at Sekhukhune United now), Siboniso Conco, Lungelo Dube and Nqobeko Dlamini, to name a few, all graduated from Diski to the DStv Premiership. In fact, almost all of that generation graduated to senior football, though some at other clubs.

“I think it is the culture of the club,” First team co-coach Vusumuzi Vilakazi says. 

“Because I always refer myself to the setup as well. I’m from Joburg, nobody identified me in Joburg, but Golden Arrows gave me a chance when I was still young. So it is a culture of the club, just to go and look. And you are quite correct when you’re saying 70% or 80% of the squad that we have, are the players who were playing for Diski, but they’ve grown in leaps and bounds. So it’s something that we always try and invest in. But it’s the culture of the club, we always go to the places where people are not going and look for players and then give youngsters a chance.”

In between Arrows’ successes, Mamelodi Sundowns were winners in 2016/2017. It was a talented team but only a few progressed. 

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It included the late Motjeka Madisha (who was also in the first team already), Keletso Makgalwa, as well as Thami Masiya. Makgalwa is now at All Stars in the Motsepe Foundation Championship, while Masiya, after a few years at Baroka, is now at Sekhukhune United. While he never won the DDC, this season’s standout young player in the DStv Premiership has been Cassius Mailula. Mailula was a standout player for Sundowns’ Diski team in recent years and was part of the team that just missed out in 2019/2020.

Knowing that Bloemfontein Celtic won in 2018/2019 and Bidvest Wits in 2019/2020, is a sad reminder that both these clubs are no longer around, and also just how important they were to the national development structures. Fortunately, not all players from those teams disappeared and many went on to find new teams and have continued to flourish. Most notable is Neo Maema, who went from that Celtic team to becoming a stand-out player for Mamelodi Sundowns. Another great example is Sipho Chaine, who made his mark for that Celtic Diski team, and won the end-of-season Precious Find award, and is now first-choice goalkeeper at Orlando Pirates. Now at Stellenbosch, Solomon Letsoenyo was also part of that Celtic team. Co-incidentally the former School of Excellence graduate played for Wits before joining Siwelele. Rowan Human captained that Wits team and the former Amajita captain is now at Maritzburg United, while Keenan Phillips moved on to SuperSport United, Solly Khunyedi is at Stellenbosch, Mpho Mathebula is shining at Richards Bay and Janovane September is part of Chippa United.

Stellenbosch’s success in the DDC last season has definitely had a direct impact on their first team this campaign, and Steve Barker’s side has been hailed for how they have integrated so many young players into their senior side. From the late Oshwin Andries to regular stars like Jayden Adams, Devin Titus and Antonio Van Wyk, Stellies have given opportunities to a dozen of their Diski graduates during this campaign alone. Another young standout, Olwethu Makhanya played in the DDC last season for Marumo Gallants.

Last season, Stellenbosch took the bold decision to release many of their veteran players and also sold key players like Zitha Kwinika and Ashley Du Preez to Kaizer Chiefs. This made way for many of these young players to get their opportunities.

“We are a team that prides ourselves on planning for the short, medium and longer term,” Barker said this week as his Stellenbosch team climbed to sixth on the Premiership table and are preparing for the Nedbank Cup semi-final against Sekhukhune United.

“So we knew a good cycle had come to an end, achieved a really good fourth position finish, and we knew this next three years would be a new cycle for us.

“A lot of a younger team, bringing in players at a certain age that we could grow and bring together and then obviously a good crop of players that won the Diski also got into the team. And I think sometimes you underestimate, you expect and want things to just be like that from day one. 

“So I think it’s taken us a bit of a while and now a lot of the younger players are established, they are confident, they’re part of the squad. So ja, I think this sort of momentum going into the end of the season, and one or two additions to the squad in key areas, I think in the next two years, we can do something special.”

This article, which first featured in Edition 102, is brought to you by DStv.

Rob Delport
Rob Delport
Rob Delport is a walking football encyclopedia, having been a mainstay in the Cape Town football scene for years. Rob has previously worked for SABC and various websites and publications across Africa, as well as being the South African Head Researcher for Football Manager and doing a similar role occasionally for EA Sports FIFA. Highly respected, Rob is now a senior iDiski Times website and newspaper writer, and is also responsible for the newspaper's editorial.