The scramble for a spot in the Nedbank Cup’s last-32 group stage is heating up. Competing clubs also campaign in the ABC Motsepe League, SAB League and IBL Safa Promotion League. The winner will represent the province and be in line for R100 000, and another R20 000 if the final-16 stage of the competition is reached.The final to determine which Free State team will qualify for the last-32 group is set to be played on 12 October. The venue is yet to be announced.In the second round of the preliminary knockout, played at the campus of the Central University of Technology (CUT), Free State, on Saturday (21/09), Mangaung Unite and Kovsie were eliminated. These upsets were recorded via penalties. CUT beat Kovsie and Mangaung to progress to the next stage, bringing the side closer to securing a slot in the last-32 group. Both games ended in penalty shoot-outs, with CUT beating Mangaung by 4 – 1 and Kovsie by 4 – 3.CUT’s agile goalkeeper, Reatile Mafa, was instrumental in the team’s victory, pulling two breathtaking saves to keep his side in the competition. The agile goal-mender stole the show making double acrobatic saves in the late stage of the fixture, twice denying Kovsie players. Mafa utilised both his legs in this instance to deny the fellow university opposition, UFS. In another preliminary fixture, the newcomer Questus made Kovsie sweat, but a penalty shoot-out helped the experienced university team to a narrow 5 – 4 victory over Questus. Whereas the Free State winner previously had to compete against a team from another province in the play-offs, the Free State winner automatically qualifies for the last-32 group stage this year. Only clubs in the lower leagues compete for a spot in the last-32 group of the championship that features professional and non-professional leagues. The overall winner of this tournament will get a chance to represent South Africa in the Confederation of African Football Cup.