Thabo Motlafi of Highlands Park challenged by Tauriq Dien of Stellenbosch FC on Wednesday evening. Photo: Chris Ricco/BackpagePix

CAPE TOWN – The draw for the last 16 of the Nedbank Cup takes place in Johannesburg on Thursday evening. 

The Mother City will have four clubs in the hat after Stellenbosch FC defeated Highlands Park 1-0 at the Athlone Stadium on Wednesday night. 

The other three who have won through are Cape Town City, Ubuntu Cape Town and Steenberg United.

Highlands have been in superb form since the arrival of former SA under-23 and Bafana Bafana caretaker coach Owen da Gama as head coach. With the Gauteng club having won the league match between the teams 3-0 earlier in the season, and currently running away things at the top of the NFD standings, Stellenbosch knew they were in for a really tough challenge. 

But they knuckled down, worked hard and got their reward with a place in the next round of this prestigious cup competition.

Against an in-from team like Highlands, Stellenbosch were always going to need to make an early impact if they were to stand a chance of winning.

They got exactly that when Iqraam Rayners dashed clear in the 13th minute to give the Cape Winelands team the lead. 

Iqraam Rayners of Stellenbosch FC scores the winning goal vs Highlands Park. Photo: Chris Ricco/BackpagePix

They also needed to be secure in defence and that, too, they got when, six minutes later, goalkeeper Washington Arubi pulled off a great close-in save to deny Highlands striker Charlton Mashumba.

With both teams prepared to go at it, there were opportunities at both ends before the break, with Stellenbosch’s Carl Lark failing to make the most of a chance when he had only goalkeeper Marlon Heugh to beat, while, at the other end, Vincent Sithole shot wide of goal and Thabo Motlafi also went close for Highlands.

Rayners had a fantastic opportunity to increase Stellenbosch’s advantage 15 minutes into the second half when great work from Strydom Wambi and Lark created the opening, but the striker unfortunately hit the cross bar.

With Stellenbosch staying compact and keeping thing tight in defence, Highlands struggled to find a way through. Mashumba had another chance when he ghosted in, but his shot was blocked by the home side’s resolute defence.

Highlands threw the proverbial kitchen sink at Stellenbosch in the closing stages, but the Cape Winelands team hung on to register the victory and join neighbours City, Ubuntu and Steenberg in the last 16.

IOL Sport

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