UP’s Varsity Football campaign kicked off on Thursday 27 July with the Tshwane Derby against TUT. Having never beaten their cross-town rivals in any of their previous varsity football encounters, UP’s footballers wanted a win at TUT’s stadium.
Both teams began the match energetically, with possession changing frequently in the early stages. TUT’s Themba Ndlovu was the liveliest of all on the pitch, as a string of promising crosses early on tested UP’s defence. Despite enjoying over 60 percent of the possession, UP were unable to create many clear-cut chances. The same could be said of their hosts, with striker Themba Ndlovu’s miscued shot coming closest to breaking the deadlock just before halftime. The second half got off to a promising start for UP with Jeremiah Nkwana’s free kick appearing to strike a TUT arm in the penalty area. Nothing would come of the appeals from the UP bench as the referee allowed play to continue. However UP’s efforts eventually paid off in the 55th minute as a cross by Nkwana was headed into the goal by Khumbulani Siluma to make it 1-0.
UP looked comfortable as they held onto the lead with sustained TUT pressure in the later parts of the half being consistently dealt with. However, hopes of a first ever Varsity football triumph against a tough TUT side were dashed in the final minute of extra time. Themba Ndlovu showed the quality that had made him so dangerous in the early stages of the first half, curling the ball over the UP wall and away from goalkeeper Dylan Patterson into the back of the UP net. Ndlovu’s strike ensured that the game ended level.
UP captain Lawrence Nkwane received the Man of the Match award, with TUT’s Ndlovu walking away with the “Samsung Best Shot” award for his game-saving goal. In his post-match interview, Nkwane stated it was important for the team to look forward. “We need to dust ourselves off and move on,” said the Captain when asked to reflect on what would have been a historic win. UP’s next game takes place on Thursday 3 August against staunch rivals UJ at UP Stadium.