There was a lot at stake as 32 teams, divided into seven groups, battled it out for a spot in the finals, which will take place in Erica Park, Belhar, over the Easter weekend.
Manenberg-based D&G Orient FC were among the sides that qualified for this year’s spectacle, after finishing on top of Group E with six points from three matches.
The group was one of the trickiest as it also had Nyanga’s Everton FC, Khayelitsha’s Rebels FC and Maties.
The side had an ideal start to the campaign, beating Everton 1-0 on Saturday. They were not done yet as they came back on Sunday to beat Maties 2-1. However, they seemed to have taken their feet off the accelerator as they went down 1-0 against Rebels. That result, however, didn’t really have an impact as both sides booked their spots in Belhar. Rebels finished second, after winning one and drawing two.
Meanwhile, Kewtown’s Avendale Athletico and Jordan Callies, also from Manenberg, will only play their last qualifying matches on Sunday February 16 as their groups are the only two that have five teams each, rather than the normal four.
Playing in Group G, Avendale’s chances of qualifying are slim as they have already lost twice and drawn once in three matches. They opened with a respectable 1-1 draw against an Ubuntu Academy side that was mostly made up of players who won last year’s Engen under-17 Knockout Challenge. That draw was, however, followed by 1-0 defeats against JL Zwane and Ulana Academy. They will now take on Blue Downs Spurs in their last match on Sunday.
Jordan Callies, on the other hand, have a serious chance of qualifying for the tournament proper. The side have six points, after winning both their matches at the weekend. They beat Beacon Spurs and Bafana United 2-1 and 4-3 respectively. They will now take on Elsies River’s Wayside Wanderers and Parkwood’s Greenwood Athletic, on Sunday.
In other action, six-time champions Ajax Cape Town also booked their spot in Belhar.
Unlike in the past, where Ajax had an automatic qualification to the tournament due to their previous PSL status, this time around they had to do battle in the dusty and sandy pitches, in order to earn their spot. They were slotted in Group B alongside Atlantic Nacional, Citizens FC and Ikapa Sporting.
The Parow-based side, who were back-to-back winners in 2013 and 2014, didn’t really have problems booking their spot in Belhar. They topped the group with seven points after winning two and drawing one of their three matches.
They kicked their off campaign on Saturday morning. And, on their way was Milnerton’s Atlantic Nacional.
The young Urban Warriors didn’t really have issues negotiating their way past Nacional, recording a 3-1 win.
They were back on the field again on Sunday morning to take on Langa’s Citizen FC. And, unlike their match against Nacional the previous day, the Citizens gave Ajax a serious run for their money. The results bear testimony to this as Ajax could only record a 1-0 victory.
Just when many thought the Citizen FC match was Ajax’s toughest, their next opponents, an equally talented Ikapa Sporting, who forced a draw and also qualified for the tournament proper.