Eastern Cape representatives Thunderbirds got their Sasol League national championships campaign off with a bang after they hammered Northern Cape outfit RC Mills 7-0 at the Kabokweni Stadium in Nelspruit, Mpumalanga.
In Group B the battle was between newcomers Thunderbirds and hosts Coal City Wizards, while RC Mills of Northern Cape has already been knocked out after losing their two matches.
Thunderbirds are on three points with Wizards – both won against RC Mills, 7-0 and 6-0 respectively.
Thunderbirds and Wizards will now battle it out in a winner-take-all clash. Should the match end in a draw, Thunderbirds will go through as they have a better goal difference.
Thunderbirds coach Thembalethu Apleni said they managed to approach their game against Mills the way they planned and that’s why they were able to score six goals in the first half.
“We were so flat in the second half. We only scored one goal, because we haven’t played in a long time and the weather conditions out here in Mpumalanga are tough. Because here it’s extremely hot you can feel the sun even when there are clouds.
“We also didn’t warm as much I would have liked us to, but the players did their best even though injuries are still persistent,” said Apleni.
He said midfielder Onelisa Sonjica and central defender Sphelele Dlala have been ruled out of the coming match due to injuries they sustained during the game.
“Even though that’s the case we are still hoping for a smooth run and, going forward, we’ll fight and die on that field, because we don’t know when we will be back here to compete.
“Now we have focused our minds on the game we are playing against the hosts. And going into this game we plan on giving it our best shot to secure a win, and even if we lose we’ll go down with our dignity. We don’t have any pressure on our backs.”
Apleni said going to the national champs for the first time meant they had an opportunity to learn more about the game from their counterparts who’ve been at the competition before.
“Maybe this was the first time we were making it here because next year these teams won’t want to see us here.
“All our registered players are present, but the worry is about our top goalscorer, who broke a leg during the game against City Lads in the provincial finals, Anelisa Nanasele, who is also part of the U20 national squad. But she is also here to support the team and I’m not scared because I have a team that scores.”
The Diski Qeen of the Match went to the Thunderbirds’ star player, who is also part of the national U20 team, Zimasa Dekeda, who walked away with R2000.