University of Johannesburg coach Mandla Zwane says the team are determined to bounce back after suffering a loss to Tshwane University of Technology in the Varsity Football competition last week.

The “Orange Army” will travel to Pretoria to tackle UP-Tuks at the Tuks Stadium on Thursday, looking for their second win this season to maintain their bid to reach the semifinals.

Despite Thursday’s setback, Zwane said the players were not discouraged and were keen to prove themselves in the remaining matches.

UJ opened their programme with a 1-0 win over Central University of Technology before losing to the log-leaders 2-0 this week.

UJ Sibusiso Dlamini

University of Johannesburg’s Sibusiso Dlamini (right) is challenged by Brian Tshoba, of Tshwane University of Technology, in their Varsity Football clash at UJ’s Soweto campus last week. Photo: Photoshelter

“It was unfortunate that we conceded two goals in the first seven minutes against TUT and it’s difficult to come back from that against a team of their calibre,” said Zwane.

“But the spirit in the camp remains high and we want to come back strongly against Tuks.”

He added, however, that they knew it would not be easy as the Varsity Football competition remained strong across the board.

“There are many tough games in the tournament, but we are looking forward to the challenge of meeting Tuks on their home ground.

“This is always a great rivalry and it should be another humdinger between two talented sides.”

Zwane said their squad had undergone significant changes this year, with a large number of newcomers having joined.

“We are going through a building phase, but we have definitely targeted a spot in the semifinals and the players are working hard towards that.”

His comments were backed up by UJ skipper Sphesihle Mbhele, who said at the start of the competition that they wanted to build on last season’s momentum.

“The goal is to take it one game at a time, but we’re not taking our eyes off the prize,” said Mbhele. “We are looking to go all the way.

“This season our team is fairly new and is a younger team. But with that being said, the plan is to top the table again and to go a couple of steps further to win the tournament this time around.”

UJ topped the log in the 2018 competition following the round-robin phase, but were frustrated in the semifinals when they went down to Wits 4-3 in a penalty shootout. TUT defeated Wits in the final.