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University of Fort Hare goalkeeper Nkosiyethu Ngobe is confident that the men’s team can return to tertiary football’s top flight in 2025.

UFH missed out on a second consecutive year of Varsity Football by the narrowest of margins at the University Sports South Africa tournament in Cape Town recently.

Had they won their final round-robin clash against Durban University of Technology 1, they would have finished runners-up in Group D and secured a spot in the elite competition next year.

Instead, having beaten Sol Plaatje University 1-0 and drawn 1-1 with the universities of Johannesburg and Pretoria in their other matches, they ended third in their pool on a total of five points.

Ngobe has been a revelation between the sticks this season and while 2024 will be his final year at Fort Hare, he is determined to do his best to ensure his side qualifies for Varsity Football at next year’s USSAs.

He said the fact that there were many newcomers to the team had proved a challenge in the Mother City. Having not played together before, he found that he was not always in sync with his defence.

“It was some of our players’ first USSAs and I think this affected them. They were simply not used to seeing how we did things,” he said.

That meant he was forced to make saves a more familiar defence might have prevented.

UFH - Men's Football (FSC) (17)

Fort Hare goalkeeper Nkosiyethu Ngobe is on a mission to take his side back to Varsity Football. Photo: Full Stop Communications

Ngobe added that it was clear that the new players had tried hard and he was certain that they would gel as a unit with more time together.

“The reason the coaches brought them in is to build up a team and we will have a whole year to do so. They will be given a strategy to move forward,” he said.

“As time goes on it will come right.”

He urged UFH fans not to be disheartened as the team would rise again.

Fort Hare’s women’s team also missed out on Varsity Football qualification after finishing fourth in Group B at the USSAs.

Issues off the pitch did not help their cause.

Nine players battled injuries during the tournament and on day one six of coach Asanda Mnakaniso’s charges were unable to register due to misspelt names on the official list.

He had no excuses and even considered it a “blessing in disguise” for the team who had been unbeaten in all other competitions this year.

With a heavy workload facing them thanks to qualifying for the national Hollywoodbets Super League, missing out on Varsity Football may not be the worst thing.

“We had a very long season. We played everything that was there to be played,” Mnakaniso said.

“We will be playing 40-plus games next season.”

Their focus now shifts to the Super League and flexing their muscles on the biggest football stage in the women’s game.

The technical team will report for duty on January 5 and trials will be held the following week.