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TOP 8: THE RETURN

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Orapa United have their sights squarely on the 2015/16 Mascom Top 8 trophy, and as they invade Extension Gunners’ territory this Friday at the National Stadium for their second leg of the quarter final encounter, nothing but victory will satisfy their ambitious plans.

The two sides played to a one-all draw in the first leg encounter played at the Itekeng Stadium in Orapa three weeks ago. Of all the eight teams competing for the P1 200 000 prize money after only five games, it is the Ostriches of Orapa who are the hungrier for success as also seen in their league performance.

Ever since arriving in the premier league some three seasons back, the Ostriches have gone from strength to strength, and in the process pulled upset after upset over bigger rivals already accustomed with premiership life for years – Gunners included. As things stand, Orapa United know that they stand a better chance of winning their first trophy in the form of the Mascom Top 8 than with the marathon full year league competition that demands stamina and enduring consistency.

Label them ‘dark horses’ or ‘wild card’ at your own peril, the Ostriches are in for the kill, and their previous impressive results against the big guns of the elite league can attest to their credentials as potent challengers to the ‘Tse Di Tona’ title. Owing to the previous upsets they have meted on the teams in this competition, they actually have a realistic chance of winning the lucrative cup. Their first hurdle to this cup glory comes in the form of Gunners whose plummeting form will be very encouraging to the team from the diamond mining town.

When the two meet, the Ostriches who once again have been on scintillating form once this season, will deploy their entire attacking prowess to overwhelm a vulnerable Gunners who have not known victory for time immemorial now. Internal strife at the Lobatse outfit has not been helpful to the metal state of the players and United may need little resources to push them aside the scoring ability of Thabang Sesinyi as well as the experience of both Patrick Lenyeletse and Patrick Motsepe. Besides, the Orapa lads this time have yet another ace up their sleeves in the form of   multiple championship winning headcoach Madinda Ndlovu.

The Zimbabwean coach knows a lot about winning championships, albeit with big clubs. Ndlovu’s storied career in Botswana has seen him coach big clubs like Mochudi Centre Chiefs and Township Rollers to championship glory and such experience may also be enough to see his Ostriches go easily past the Gunners who are clearly out of sorts lately. With his eyes set on the gratification of carrying his winning exploits to a relatively new team, Ndlovu most likely employ an attacking formation to breach the somewhat miserly Mapantsula defence that despite their string of losses, has given away very little.
The Ostriches’ spokesperson Tebalo Hule made it clear that his team was in the Top 8 to win the coveted trophy and not just to participate. “We believe we have the right squad for the job and we   have no pressure at all. We have played against most of the teams in the tournament and we have done well in the encounters, thus our confidence,” he said.

Hule attributed the team’s recent good run and success to good administration. “We try by all means to be organised and make sure that the teams’ welfare is taken care of, including both transport and accommodation.”also, Hule said the team’s support base has grown tremendously as they manage to fill up their home stadium whenever they host games. “The support base is important for motivating the players, we hope to see them fill up the away stadium when we play Gunners.”

Gunners on the other hand might just find themselves in a pleasant moment to turn their fortunes around, and the Ostriches are better warned to tread with care as wounded predators are often the most dangerous. The players at the Lobatse outfit may also be extra-motivated by knowing what is at stake as their club has been struggling to pay them. Veteran coach Daniel ‘Chico’ Nare recently replaced former headcoach Keitumetse ‘Pio’ Paul and he is still looking for his first victory at the club although a goalless draw will be enough to see his Gunners proceed to the semi-finals on the away–goal rule.

The match will herald the start of an eventful weekend where on Saturday another second leg quarter final match will see BDF XI will take on Gaborone United at the Molepolole Sports Complex. Matebele come into the game with a 1-0 advantage that could see them send the defending champions down the exit door. The third quarter final encounter pits Township Rollers with Police XI at the Molepolole Sports Complex on Sunday. Rollers won the first leg in An awesome 4-2 comeback thriller following the cops’ early 2-0 lead. The stage concludes on Monday evening, still at the Molepolole Sports Complex, where Mochudi Centre Chiefs will take on Gilport Lions.

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Well-endowed Galaxy

Isaac Pheko

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FIRE POWER: Galaxy await Rollers

It is only the third week of the 2018/19 BTC Premiership and things are already heating up. Leading the charge is a marauding Jwaneng Galaxy who have already thrown a heavy-handed gauntlet at their rivals after recording a highly impressive 10 goals in just two games.

Galaxy’s intention has been made clear this season after leaving their first two opponents with bloody noses and tails tucked between their legs. The former Mascom Top 8 champions are in a relentless war path with the premier league title on their radar. This weekend, Galaxy host bitter rivals Township Rollers in Jwaneng in what is expected to be a football grudge match. Rollers have been a prickly thorn in Galaxy’s quest to claim the premiership silverware for the past two seasons.

This means the weekend fixture will be the most compelling of the new season. However, Galaxy seem to be packing more heat coming into the Saturday fixture having annihilated both Prisons XI (5-0) and Security Systems (5-0). Galaxy are currently occupying first position alongside second place Sharps Shooting Stars at six points apeice. The game against Popa this weekend will be a litmus test for Galaxy. If the Debswana backed side beats the reigning champions they will establish themselves as potential contenders for the 2018/19 title honours. On the flipside, a loss against Rollers will only mean the first two games were short of a bluff.

Pound for pound Mapalastina have the best squad in the domestic league but a new look Galaxy are well endowed in their own right. In an interview this week, Galaxy spokesperson Tankiso Morake said they played Rollers three times last season and all the games ended in a draw. “Remember we played Rollers in the Mascom Top 8 in Lobatse,” an up-beat Morake said. Morake further said they expected their new coach to receive his permits and start manning the bench when they play Rollers this weekend. “Our supporters have told us that they expected nothing less than league honours this season.” Morake attributes the positive result to a great pre-season.

“You will remember that there was a fake list in the media indicating that we have parted ways with most of our players. You can see that the likes of Ayanda Molefe and Isaac Paeye are still part of the team. There is a lot of competition in our team because we mostly have young players in the team including Lebogang Ditsile who played at Highlands Park in South Africa.” Furthermore, Morake conceded that Rollers are a strong team but argued that they will win the games from the technical bench. “You will remember that we started the last season back tracking but this time things are different.”

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Bridge team fails to impress

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The local team comprised of under 16, under 21 and under 26 categories. In an interview this week, BBF spokesperson Mbakiso Malilo did not mince his words when he described the team’s performance as terrible with all the three teams failing to qualify for the quarter finals.

“Making it to the quarter finals was our target following a good showing in the online championship by our junior team. I believe we can work on improving the playing standard for kids (under 16) as they still stand a chance to compete in the under 21 and under 26 categories for future championships,” he said.

However, Malilo explained that the local youth team gained a lot of experience as the played against more advanced rivals. Quizzed on challenges they faced with a predominantly youthful team, Malilo said: “the trip was too long and for most of the players this was their first experienced of travelling such a great distance. The jet lag ended up affecting the team’s performance as they showed signs of fatigue.” Malilo said their objective was to train young players and give them exposure to the game early on.

“We managed to network with bridge power houses like the Netherlands. Official from the European country expressed interest in training our kids through bridge clinics and enhancing the standard of play and bidding.” Malilo said they selected the junior team that travelled to China through local tournament that was held in Gaborone earlier this year. The tournament was attend by mostly tertiary school students and out of school youth in the junior and youngsters’ category. For the under 16 category we invited student from secondary schools.

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