The format of the Gauteng qualification rounds of the Kay Motsepe Schools Cup have been changed this year.

The format of the Gauteng qualification rounds of the Kay Motsepe Schools Cup have been changed this year. Previously a series of inter-district playoffs across the region were held to determine the 8 schools that will play in the provincial finals, but from now on the playoffs will be in four districts, with two teams each from Tshwane, Johannesburg and Ekuhurleni going through and one each from Sedibeng and on from the West Rand district.

Former title holders Clapham High School last weekend won the Tshwane North district title and will now play the winners of the Tshwane South, Tshwane West and Gauteng North to determine the 2 schools that will progress to the Gauteng provincial finals.

According to Clapham team manager, Johannes Petje, the road to the district finals has been challenging as more and more schools are taking part in the tournament, with an eye on the prize money on offer.

“This means that we play more games every year and the competition is tougher because we don’t play against the same schools every year,” he said.

For example, Hoërskool Overkruin entered for the first time this year and they were very competitive. “We look forward to playing against new schools, it shows that the tournament is growing,” Petje said.

The 2015 Clapham team is made up of a combination of new and experienced players. “Some players have graduated and others are no longer eligible because of age, so we select new players and work hard to get the team up to speed with the standard of the tournament,” he said.

Petje enters his school into as many tournaments as possible to prepare the boys. “We managed to reach the finals of the Diski Challenge, where we lost to University of Pretoria,” he said. “But they gained a lot of experience to help them prepare better for the Kay Motsepe Schools Cup.”

Through the academy, Clapham has become a rich source of players to the professional ranks. “It’s rewarding when players that come from the academy get signed to the first team,” Petje said. “Last year we had Percy Tau, who got offered a contract with the first team, and this year Motjeka Modisha was signed with the Mamelodi Sundowns first team, he played in this tournament in 2012 and 2013 and is captain of the SA u-20 national team.”

Although the senior players have hectic schedules, they do come to the school to spend a few hours with the players and encourage them. “Just recently, Percy Tau came to the school and had a chat with the boys. They can relate to him and they look up to him a lot,” Petje explained.

The Kay Motsepe Schools Cup is an unpredictable tournament, Petje said. For example, last year’s runners-up, Tholokuhle, from KZN, have already been knocked out.

“We were also knocked out early in the tournament last year, so anything can happen. No team is guaranteed to reach the nationals, regardless of academy affiliations. It is getting tougher and tougher every year, especially here in Gauteng as more schools are becoming associated with academies.”

Clapham will be taking it one step at a time. The focus now is on winning the district finals then after that they will focus on the Gauteng provincial finals.

“We have to remain disciplined and focused,” Petje said. “Last year we missed a number of our best players who were called up for national duty, but this year we have prepared for that. We have players who can fill that gap should some of our players be selected for national teams.”

After beating Prestige College 4-1 in the District finals, Clapham are a confident team, Petje said. “We believe that this will be the year where we reclaim our glory.”