FOR the first time in seven years, Zimbabwe-born players will not be part of the SwaziBank Cup semi-final cast after the last man standing, Zivai Verengaa��s Matsapha United bowed out at the quarter-final stage last Sunday.
Verenga lasted 83 minutes against Mbabane Highlanders at Somhlolo National Stadium on Sunday making way for Kwenzokuhle Khumalo who went to grab a 119th minute equalizing header that extended the gamea��s life to the penalties.
Highlanders, affectionately known as the Bull, had taken an 102nd minute opener with a beautifully struck Thabiso Mokenkoane free kick but as the fans and Matsapha United were headed for the exit points, Khumaloa��s header literally took the bull by the horns to the lottery kicks.
And eventually, Highlanders prevailed 5-4 on penalties to progress to the semi-finals where they play Manzini Wanderers on Sunday and indeed the last Zimbabwean player in the tournament, Verenga would take no further part in the lucrative knock-out.
This is a contrast to previous editions which had two Zimbabwe coaches Herbert Maruwa and Saul Chaminuka picking up silver. Maruwa took charge of the Green Mamba outfit that lost 1-2 to Mbabane Swallows in 2016.
Green Mamba had knocked out a Tarisai Changara-coached Tambuti FC in the semi-finals.
In 2017, the then Chaminuka-coached giant killing machine, Matsapha United lost 0-2 to Young Buffaloes to settle for silver.
In 2015 and 2014 Talent Maphosa was the a�?last Zimbabwean standinga�? in the tournament with his Swallows losing at the semi-final stage having won the 2013 edition.
Lloyd Mutasa had guided Green Mamba to the 2012 triumph, their last ever gold medal win while Hloniphani Ndebele featured for Mbabane Highlanders when they won the SwaziBank Cup in 2011.
Meanwhile, the coronation of Ikarbort Masocha and his Mbabane Citizens to the premiership suffered yet another week delay after they were held to a 1-1 by Sikhalo Se Africa.
The crowning moment has been beckoning for at least three consecutive match days and this week goes to -Madlenya and a draw could be good enough to clinch one of the two premiership promotion berths.
A win for Citizens and a draw or defeat for second placed Sea Birds will confirm the Masocha coached outfit as the MTN National First Division champions completing a hattrick of Zimbabwe coaches.
Changara won the NFD championship with Tambuti while Chaminuka bagged it last year.-@NoelMunzabwa