Steenberg seal NFD deal

2019-06-11 06:00
Steenberg United’s Robin Rhoda (right) flicks the ball goalwards with JDR Stars’s Makhanye Moeketsi keeping him in check during the final of the ABC Motsepe league national playoffs at Erica Park on Saturday. The Gauteng-based team won 1-0 to collect the R1m prize money. Both teams gained promotion to the NFD next season.PHOTO: Rashied Isaacs

Steenberg United’s Robin Rhoda (right) flicks the ball goalwards with JDR Stars’s Makhanye Moeketsi keeping him in check during the final of the ABC Motsepe league national playoffs at Erica Park on Saturday. The Gauteng-based team won 1-0 to collect the R1m prize money. Both teams gained promotion to the NFD next season.PHOTO: Rashied Isaacs

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Steenberg United will play in the National First Division (NFD) next season.

The team may have fallen short of winning the ABC Motsepe League’s national playoffs, but by finishing runners-up in the tournament, hosted by the Western Cape, they secured a cool R500 000 along with a spot in the second tier of South African club football next season.

Watched by a lively crowd at Erica Park in Belhar on Saturday, Michael Ngobeni’s side narrowly lost out 1-0 to JDR Stars from Pretoria.

Steenberg dominated the opening proceedings, using both flanks in attack, with Damian Basadien and Valetino Fredericks as constant threats. Striker and co-captain Robin Rhoda missed a headed chance in the 17th minute, despite having the beating of JDR’s goalkeeper Modlalose Mbuso.

With the tournament, which pits the nine winners of the ABC Motsepe Provincial league against each other, starting earlier in the week, fatigue took its toll on players.

As a result, JDR Stars absorbed the pressure exerted on them by Steenberg, who would go into the half-time interval with nothing to show for their efforts in a lethargic final.

Five minutes after the restart Mbuso was called into action as he kept out a Steenberg United free kick.

However, this only helped spark the visitors’ efforts, with captain Baloyi Lesley fluffing a golden opportunity to tap the ball into a gaping net in the 70th minute with Steenberg goalkeeper, Abduraghmaan White, already beaten.

Steenberg threw the kitchen sink into attack, but heavy legs scuppered any chance of a late revival when, in the 74th minute, JDR Stars substitute Letooane Sello steered a deflected free kick past a helpless White to sink the hopes of the home team. The goal was enough to help JDR Stars to the national trophy and the R1m prize money that comes with it.

Despite the result, Ngobeni praised his charges for their week’s efforts, which saw them gain promotion in dramatic fashion on Thursday when they scored a last-minute winner against Casric FC, who represented North West province.

“The whole week has made the boys a little bit tired, so we don’t blame them. But our main target was to get into the NFD, so we got what we wanted. (Today) was about honouring the game and see if we could get from there. We would have loved to win the trophy, but it was tough luck for us,” says Ngobeni, who adds they will seek to beef up his squad ahead of next season.

“We are going to make sure boys from the Cape Flats get the job. This team is made for Cape Flats.”

Rhoda, who shares the captaincy with White also lamented the short turnaround time between the tough tournament playoffs and the finals but is elated to bring an end to Steenberg’s long-awaited bow in the NFD after a series of near misses.

“The club has been trying for 16 years. For us to get it the way we did, a lot of people, they thought this team is not like the previous teams who went to the playoffs, but the guys here this season showed a lot of character because we had a lot of youngsters. It means a lot to Steenberg, I mean we did it for the Western Cape. There was definitely a reason why we had to win promotion here in Cape Town,” says Rhoda.

He thanks the supporters who took the time to watch them throughout the season.

“We appreciate everything from our families, and it means the world to each and every player,” he says.

During last season’s promotional playoffs in Limpopo, Steenberg fell agonisingly short of achieving their goal, missing out on semi-final qualification by a single point, which would have put them on the cusp of promotion.

“Driving back (from Limpopo) was really a struggle. When we started this season, there were a lot of doubters because most of the players left. We had to start from scratch and there were four teams in the running for the ABC Motsepe Western Cape league. Each day we took every game and it worked out at the end of the day.”

JDR Stars and Steenberg United will replace Witbank Spurs and Ubuntu Cape Town in the NFD next season.

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