A come-from-behind winner struck in optional time by Knox Mutizwa saw Arrows edge Orlando Pirates 2-1 and replace Ajax Cape Town in eighth spot after Saturday’s action.
They needed some luck and it came through Baroka FC beating Ajax, a result which allowed the Durban outfit to overtake the Capetonians and qualify for next season’s MTN8 cup.
It means they join provincial rivals Maritzburg United in the season-opening tournament, a rare double appearance of KZN sides in the event. Maritzburg took seventh position with a 1-1 home draw against Bloemfontein Celtic.
Arrows coach Clinton Larsen said it was just reward for the players’ effort.
“I’m happy for the players. For three quarters of the season or more we were in the top eight and it would have been a very bitter pill to swallow to not finish inside,” Larsen said.
He was particularly pleased that his young team did the business in their second season after winning promotion and promised there was more to come.
“The players were terrific with the effort they gave. It’s a young and ever improving team and based on this performance, the signs are there that this team can only get better and build a good brand of football.”
Ironically, he might lose the player who made the difference on Saturday.
Mutizwa is set to return to parent club Bidvest Wits, from whom he arrived on loan in the middle of the season. The Zimbabwean’s winner was his fifth goal for Arrows after Lerato Lamola cancelled Thamsanqa Gabuza’s opener for Bucs. Should he stay in Durban, his first match next term will be against champions Wits in the MTN8.
Larsen said their hope of retaining Mutizwa depended on Wits.
Meanwhile, Pirates coach Kjell Jonevret was “angry and disappointed” at how they gave up control after leading from the 19th minute via Gabuza’s headed goal.
“We had to play simple football in that windy weather and keep the ball up there with Gabuza and (Tendai) Ndoro, and put pressure on Arrows but the exact opposite happened.
“I’m very disappointed because I thought we had worked things out defensively.
“There were no silly goals and we had been solid defensively, so I’m very disappointed. It’s not over the position in the log but because we wanted to win this game. I don’t think they were better than us - we gave them the victory - and that hurts so much.”
The Swedish coach said they would take a few days off and then return to training and play two friendlies in preparation for the Nedbank Cup final against Supersport United in Durban next month. The cup final represents Pirates’ last chance to pick up some silverware to celebrate their 80th anniversary.