JOHANNESBURG – TS Galaxy striker Zakhele Lepasa may be one of the Nedbank Cup’s finds this season, but he knows that he can’t afford to rest on his laurels, especially in the final.
Lepasa inspired Galaxy to the final of South Africa’s premier club knockout competition, and will square off with Kaizer Chiefs at Moses Mabhida Stadium on Saturday night.
In what has already been a roller coaster of a season for Lepasa, the Galaxy attacker will be hoping to end it on a high note, compared to the team’s slow start, by leading his team to the unthinkable – becoming the first team from the NFD to win the Nedbank Cup.
After being loaned out by Orlando Pirates to NFD champions Stellenbosch FC, Lepasa found the going tough in the Winelands as he found himself kicking his heels from the stands.
Enter Galaxy and Lepasa found the mojo that erupted at Pirates during pre-season – playing 11 matches and scoring five goals in the league, while in the Nedbank Cup, he has played three matches and scored as many goals.
However, after meeting only one PSL team, two NFD teams and one ABC Motsepe side in their run to the final, Lepasa should be at his best against a Chiefs’ team that has conceded only three goals in four matches, while scoring 10.
“I think if there’s pressure, it’s not (necessarily) about Chiefs or the final. I think there’s already pressure if you are doing well,” Lepasa said.
“As a striker, the defenders always analyse you and try to contain you. You always need to worker harder than you did before and try new ways of playing and I think that will be the only pressure.
“Whether it’s about the award or not, I don’t know, but I think it’s about us as a team winning the tournament, because we want to win it.”
Lepasa’s efforts in the Nedbank Cup haven’t gone unnoticed by the judges.
The 22-year-old striker has been nominated for the Nedbank Player of the Tournament and the Nedbank Most Promising Player of the Tournament awards – an added achievement for the striker.
For the Player of the Tournament, he is up against Khama Billiat and Bernard Parker (both Chiefs), while for the Promising Player of the Tournament, he will be competing with teammate Terrence Mashego and Chiefs’ Siphosakhe Ntiya-Ntiya.
Rewind back to last season and Lebohang Maboe scooped both awards for Maritzburg United after they reached their first ever final, and it was not long before nine-time PSL champions Mamelodi Sundowns lured him to Chloorkop.
Maboe had a memorable first season with Sundowns, and that could be lie in wait for Lepasa at Pirates, right?
“I don’t think about it. When that day comes (we’ll see),” Lepasa argued about returning to Pirates.
“But obviously, I’ll have to go back for the pre-season and when I get there, they’ll obviously tell me what’s the way forward.
“But I think I need to play well each and every time especially on the weekend, and hopefully it will be enough to convince them (the technical team) that I must be back.”
The added plus to Lepasa’s rise this season is being mentored by former Pirates player Dan “Dance” Malesela.
The 53-year-old coach is known to be an admirer of carpet football but he’s pushed players like Lepasa to the limit – polishing their rough talent.@Mihlalibaleka