Plucky Bergvliet give newly-crowned champs a run for their money

Bergvliet High School soccer coach Theo Hempe had nothing but praise for his young charges, despite a 3-1 defeat against Mitchell’s Plain’s Mondale High, in their under-19 boys’ Kay Motsepe Cape regional finals, at the Elsbury Park sports ground, in Matroosfontein, last Friday. Mondale’s win secured their place in the Western Cape play-offs of the lucrative schools’ competition. They will now join their counterparts from Eden, Central-Karoo, Cape Winelands, Overberg and West Coast districts in the provincial play-offs, which is scheduled to be held in Saldanha Bay at the end of the month.

Bergvliet’s Ashraf van der Schyff, wearing the number 10 jersey, tests the defensive wall with a well-timed free kick in front of goal, during their side’s Kay Motsepe regional cup final against Mondale, at Elsbury Park, in Matroosfontein, last Friday. Picture: Fuad Esack

Established in 2004, the Kay Motsepe Schools Championship is arguably the biggest of its kind in the country with more than 5 000 schools taking part annually. Sponsored by the Motsepe Foundation and Sanlam, the competition starts at cluster level with the winning schools advancing to the regional, provincial and finals.

Bergvliet’s Malakhi Marney and Mondale’s Diego Jacobs challenge for the ball in front of a somewhat anxious blue support, at last week’s regional finals. Picture: Fuad Esack

The competition carries a prize of R1m for the national winning team, as well as R600 000, R500 000 and R400 000 for the second, third and fourth-placed schools respectively. Each provincial champion gets an amount of R100 000 earmarked for school-related development projects, such as the improvement of school infrastructure, office blocks, libraries, classrooms, ablution facilities and sporting facilities.

Bergvliet’s Ashraf van der Schyff, left, and Mondale’s opening goalscorer, Matthew du Plessis, challenge for the ball under the watchful eyes of their respective coaches. Picture: Fuad Esack

Prior to entering this competition, Bergvliet performed well in the Westerford schools league and beat Claremont’s Groote Schuur High 5-0 in the final of Rhodes High School’s Knockout competition. En route to last Friday’s cup final, Bergvliet beat Bonteheuwel’s Modderdam High 4-1 in the last round of 32, Belhar’s Excelcior 2-1 in the last 16, Gugulethu’s ID Mkhize 3-0 in the quarter-finals and Khayelitsha’s Thembelihle High School 1-0 in the semi-final, to set up a date with Mondale.

Bergvliet’s Ashraf van der Schyff lobs the ball over his marker’s head during his side’s Kay Motsepe regional final against Mondale. Picture: Fuad Esack

In a classic tale of two halves, Bergvliet dominated the first, dictating play and had better ball possession. However, Mondale came back strongly in the second half, thanks to a goal by Matthew du Plessis and a brace by SA under-20 player, Siviwe Nkwahli. Bergvliet’s Gianni Almano pulled one back to make the score 2-1, but Nkwahli’s second strike sealed the deal for Mondale.

Bergvliet striker Gianni Almano looks to clear the ball Matthew du Plessis, who scored Mondale opening goal, closing in. Gianni pulled one back for Bergvliet in the second. Picture: Fuad Esack

Although the final result did not go his side’s way, Hempe is confident Bergvliet will emerge better and that the lessons learnt will only make them stronger.

Bergvliet coach Theo Hempe, third from left, during last Friday’s cup final match against Mondale. Picture: Fuad Esack

“I think we dominated the game, especially in the first half. That is the kind of football we want to play, we want to play on the front foot,” said former professional Hempe, currently on his second stint with the school since the beginning of this year. His first spell as coach was cut short due to the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic and the extended lockdown period.

Mondale’s Matthew du Plessis and Bergvliet centre back Zinzan Pieterse, battle for supremacy during last Friday’s cup final at Elsbury Park. Picture: Fuad Esack

“We conceded the three goals directly from set pieces, which shows maybe a little bit of a lack of concentration. I’m happy that we got to the finals but I think we can definitely play better, ” he said.

Bergvliet’s Zinzan Pieterse’s body language says it all as Mondale players celebrate victory in the background. Picture: Fuad Esack

Hempe also paid tribute to former school principal Stephen Price, who retired in March and whom he says had the vision to turn Bergvliet into a powerhouse on the school soccer scene.

He also thanked the school community for its support and ensuring that the right systems was put in place to help realise Price’s vision.

Bergvliet’s Imaad Daniels outjumps Mondale danger man Siviwe Nkwali with Zinzan Pieterse coming up in support. Picture: Fuad Esack

“We have all the backing at Bergvliet, we got all the right coaches in, the teachers are fantastic. This the culmination of all of that. It’s just a small step, but I think it will go a long way in taking Bergvliet forward,” he said.

Brandon Siljeur, teacher and Director of Football at Bergvliet agrees, saying the school’s success on the soccer field is largely due to an assembly of the right people and excellent team work.

“We have seven teams, two under-15 sides, two under-17’s, one under-19 squad and two girls’ teams. About 150 players in total.

Mondale’s Daniel Arendse, left, under pressure from Bergvliet’s Dylan Lewis. Picture: Fuad Esack

“We put together an amazing team of coaches. We bonded well and have developed into a bit of a family set up. Our senior team coaches include former Bafana Bafana player, Roger Links, Theo, Cruz October and national women’s selector and girls’ coach, Louise Newman. They are ably assisted by three junior coaches and four managers (teachers),” he said.

Mondale captain, Suhail Galant, right, and Bergvliet striker Gianni Almano tussle for possession. Picture: Fuad Esack

“All our teams play every week. We play in the Westerford league who joined Safa Cape Town, this year and we recently won the Rhodes High Knockout competition,” he said.

“I think the main take away from last week’s game is experience gained being part of a big competition. We had five starting players excluded because of them not having ID’s. So we have to be better prepared next year. From a playing point of view, I think there is the realisation that we can take on the best,” he said.

Going up against Mondale was certainly one of the bigger challenges they faced in recent times considering the Mitchell’s Plain side had won the regional title four times previously and represented the Western Cape at the national finals on two occasions, going down to SuperSport Academy in the semi-finals and finishing third in 2013.

Bergvliet captain Brayden Brown, right, and Mondale’s Daniel Arendse challenge for the ball during their sides’ cup final match. Picture: Fuad Esack

While Bergvliet journey in this year’s Kay Motsepe Schools Championship may have ended, Bergvliet school governing body chairman, Nasief van der Schyff, an avid soccer fan and a staunch supporter of the school’s soccer programme, says it’s only the beginning.

“Our program is still in its infancy. However, we have already seen the importance of prioritising coaching excellence underpinned by a unified coaching and playing philosophy and supported by sports science,” said Van der Schyff, under-18 coach at nearby Tramway FC and whose son Ashraf is a member of the school’s squad.

“Besides our boys, we are also particularly proud of our girls’ football programme and are excited by the tremendous potential this has for the future,” he said.

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