The stakes are high, with the winner set to claim R200 000 and the runner-up receiving R100 000, in addition to earning the coveted recognition as the top provincial team in the country.
This final matchup surprised many, as both teams carried the underdog label during the semi-finals. Drawn in Group B, Forth Hare University managed to edge past Lindelani with a 1-0 victory in their round-robin matches.
In the semi-finals, Lindelani impressed by defeating Ramatlaohle from Limpopo with a commanding 3-0 score line, while Fort Hare, competing in the tournament for the first time, triumphed in a nerve-wracking 5-4 penalty shootout against tournament favourites Croesus after a 2-2 draw in regulation time.
Representing Kwa-Zulu Natal, Nkosinathi Vilakazi, the head coach of Lindelani, firmly believes that his team will emerge victorious in the upcoming final. He views the final as the icing on the cake, a fitting reward following their successful promotion to the top-flight division.
“My players possess undeniable playing abilities, and without a doubt, I’m committed to affording these young talents an opportunity to shine in the upcoming final," Vilakazi told SABC Sport
"Their unwavering dedication to the team, from the very start to the very end, is remarkable while it’s worth noting that tournament-style play differs from league football, our squad boasts remarkable talent, and we’ve demonstrated our capacity to secure results when it matters most in this competition," he continued.
"We’re determined to secure victory in the final by showcasing an exceptional brand of football. Our ball movement is nothing short of brilliant, making us a delightful spectacle on the field."
Conversely, Asanda Mnakaniso, the head coach of Fort Hare University, expresses their elation at surpassing their initial expectations. Making it to the cup final and securing their promotion to the top-flight division in the coming year has been a remarkable achievement for their team.
Reaching the final is seen as an unexpected bonus, making a historic milestone for Mnakaniso and his team, as they proudly become the first Eastern Cape Province squad to accomplish this feat on their maiden attempt.
Mnakaniso expressed, “In my view, the match against Croesus felt like a culmination even before the actual final. Knowing that the final carries less pressure than a must-win game, we’ll approach it with a more relaxed mindset.
"It’s interesting to note that we’ll face a team we previously defeated in the group stage, and they’re hungry for revenge. We aim to secure another victory over them, despite the fact that their greater tournament experience as this is their third appearance, which could make them favourites,” said Mnakaniso.