Four schools from the Northern Cape are among the regional winners set to participate in the upcoming provincial final of the 2018 Danone Nations Cup soccer competition for u.12 players. The final will be held at the Mxolisi Dicky Jacobs Stadium in Upington on Saturday, 14 April.The schools are the Gaegake Primary School (John Taolo Gaetsewe District), Lutzburg Intermediate School (ZF Mgcawu District), Aggenys Primary School (Namakwa District) and the Vaalriver Combined School (Francis Baard District). The Pixley ka Seme District is still to hold their finals to determine their participants.Benji Plaatjie, coach and manager of the team of the Vaalriver Combined School based in Barkly West, described how the road to the provincial finals was not easy. He said they played eight games at cluster level where they topped the log to be one of the five schools to compete in the regional finals on Saturday, 24 March, at the Warrenton Public School. That is where they made it through to the provincial finals, winning all four their matches and making it to the top of the log. According to Plaatjie the school entered the tournament for the first time in 2016 but have never progressed past the cluster level.Reaching the provincial finals was a major achievement for him as he only started coaching the team in January. He has no coaching qualification nor has he played the game at a high level. Plaatjie holds a Diploma in Human Resources from the Northern Cape FET College and he teaches English, Afrikaans, Maths, Natural Science and Social ScienceHe identified his central defender David Kizito, who managed to score a goal in the regional finals, and goalkeeper Lesedi Moitsimang, as his key players.“Winning the regional finals was very exciting for the boys as they will be travelling outside their town for the first time to compete in Upington,” Plaatjie said. “They come from an area where there are very few opportunities. This will be a life changing experience for the youngsters. “It would be exciting to be the first team from the Northern Cape to compete in the world finals, but we will take it a step at a time.” Plaatjie is grateful to Danone for running a project that uplifts the communities and builds a brighter future for the children. “These children are young and my focus at the moment is to get them to understand the rules of the game without restricting their play,” he said.“I am teaching them how to defend, attack, mark and shoot, as this is what wins games.”He sees his success as being able to understand the youngsters due to his strategy of keeping things simple. “It is important as a coach not to be hard on your players and to let them have fun. We have a great understanding as they see me as their teacher, coach, father figure and friend. They can see that I have a passion for soccer and this encourages them to adopt the same approach.” Plaatjie however admits to not knowing much about the other teams they will be competing against and will thus focus on their own style. “As we don’t know what to expect, I am also focusing on building the players’ confidence so that they can cope with anything that comes their way and not feel intimidated,” he said. “They might come up against excellent players and different approaches to the game, but they must remain level-headed.”When the school resumes the boys will only have a few days to prepare for the provincials so he has instructed them all to keep fit.