picture: lonwabo marele
And they achieved that in their maiden Coke Cup appearance.
Abazingeli, as Hunters are affectionately known, went to the game against Stars at the back of impressive victories, having beaten Bellville City, also by 5-4 on penalties, in the last 64 and United Aces, 3-0, in the last 32. Coach Anella Bota described the match against Bellville City as one of their toughest so far in the competition.
“We came from behind three times in that game and, on top of it, we missed a penalty, which would have given us victory in regulation time.
“Despite that, however, the players didn’t drop their heads. Instead, they kept pushing and we ended up winning,” he said.
The match against Stars on Saturday, however, was a completely different ball game.
The encounter took place at Nyanga Stadium and that meant Hunters, besides their opponents on the field, had to deal with the proverbial “12th man”, the hostile home side supporters.
But that didn’t distract them as they found themselves 2-0 up within the first 15 minutes, thanks to goals from Akhona Mnyuko and Thembalethu Mketo.
The home side, however, replied with two goals of their own, including a penalty to make it 2-2 at half time.
“We told the boys during the halftime break not to panic. However, things looked like they were going from bad to worse when Stars made it 3-2 from a free kick, two minutes into the second half,” said Bota.
His players, however, didn’t panic and kept asking questions until their opponents succumbed to the pressure.
Mnyuko completed his brace to make it 3-3 at the final whistle, and the match had to be decided on penalties.
The Khayelitsha side ended up winning 5-4 after the dreaded shootout. Maybe the result should not be really surprising because the players are, after all, in good hands.
The brain’s trust behind their run in this year’s competition has been Bota and his assistant, Sikhulule “Rhulani” Noliroto. These are two names who know football outside-in and inside-out.