FOR THE first time in seven years KwaZulu-Natal will have two teams in the MTN8 tournament next season.
Golden Arrows and Maritzburg United will battle it out with Bidvest Wits, Mamelodi Sundowns, Cape Town City, Kaizer Chiefs, SuperSport United and Polokwane City for the winner-takes-all prize of R8 million in September.
The last time KZN had two teams in the tournament was in 2009 when AmaZulu and Arrows represented the province. Abafana Bes’thende were the winners that year after humiliating Ajax Cape Town 6-0.
Arrows coach Clinton Larsen said he would have done an injustice to the club’s supporters had he failed to qualify for the tournament. Abafana Bes’thende beat Orlando Pirates 2-1 at home on Saturday in their last match of the 2016-17 Absa Premiership season to finish eighth.
Larsen was on cloud nine after the match that saw Arrows come back from a goal down to win. Thamsanqa Gabuza put Bucs ahead in the first half while Lerato Lamola and Knox Mutizwa staged Arrows’ comeback.
Said Larsen: “It’s a big day for the club. I’m really happy for the boys, who put in extra work the whole season. We’ve been in the top eight for a number of months this season. We’ve been working hard for this top eight finish and I’m glad that we were rewarded in the end.”
For the past few weeks Arrows looked a dejected team, especially after they suffered their first back-to-back defeats to Rise and Shine and Downs late last month. Those defeats saw them surrender their top eight spot to Ajax.
But Abafana Bes’thende were still in it – they just needed to beat Pirates and hope the Urban Warriors slipped up in their match against Baroka FC. Lady Luck smiled on them because they won their last match and Ajax lost 1-0 at home to Baroka.
Larsen said: “One thing my players had this season is fighting spirit.
“They never gave up and that was pleasing to see. When we lost out on the Nedbank Cup we told ourselves we had to finish in the top eight. And I’m glad we’ve done that.”