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Gqeberha’s Highbury Are National ABC Motsepe Champs!

The Eastern Cape’s Highbury Football Club are the 2023/24 national ABC Motsepe champions after beating Kruger United 2-0 in the final at the Mxolisi Dicky Jacobs Stadium in Upington on Sunday afternoon.

Both teams had already secured their promotion to the professional ranks after reaching the final. 

There was some controversy on Saturday, as Thames from the North West, who Kruger United had beaten in the semis, had lodged a last-ditch appeal, which was however dismissed by the Disciplinary Committee.

And so it was Vusi Mkhatshwa’s team from Mpumalanga, founded only 11 months ago, who took on former TS Sporting, Orbit College and Venda Football Club coach Kabelo Sibiya’s Gqeberha-based Highbury side.

It would also be Mkhatshwa’s final game as coach as the former Witbank Spurs and Mbombela United coach had already announced his decision to retire from the bench.

It was Highbury who struck early as Player of the Tournament contender Mzoxolo Rafani’s hard running paid off as he raced onto a pass from his captain Mohau Mokate that bounced past goalkeeper Mlungisi Mazibuko and Rafani scored from an acute angle in the 13th minute.

It was a good first half from Highbury, who created the better clearcut chances and with a little more composure could’ve increased their lead. Kruger had opportunities, even a few more than their opponents, though mainly from corner kicks, and none were on target. At half time it remained 1-0 to Highbury.

Mkhatshwa made a few changes at the break and it was Kruger Utd who started the second half showing intent as they pushed for an equaliser.

But Highbury’s defence stood fast and Rafani doubled the lead, making it 2-0 in the 66th minute. It was the former Free State Stars player’s third of the playoffs and made the 33-year-old the top scorer of the week.

Kruger pushed to get back into the game, but Highbury held out and were crowned national champions on a day that their opponents could just not get any shots on target.

It was not the ideal ending to the 57-year-old Mkhatshwa’s coaching career that he would’ve wanted but he can take solace in knowing the team were already promoted.

The pairs’ promotion means that both the Eastern Cape and Mpumalanga will have two professional clubs in 2024/25, with Highbury joining Chippa United and Kruger joining TS Galaxy respectively.

iDiski Times
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