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It’s a chance to rebuild, says Notši

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Likuena interim coach Leslie Notši says the upcoming COSAFA Cup is a chance for the national team to rebuild self-belief after a run of disappointing results.
Notši took charge of Likuena last week on a caretaker basis after the sacking of Serbia’s Veselin Jelusic as coach.

His first task in charge is getting ready Lesotho for the regional showpiece which begins next Wednesday in Durban, South Africa.

Notši is taking over a Lesotho side that has not won a recognised international match in 2023 and his first game at the helm is next Saturday when Likuena make their COSAFA Cup bow against Mauritius.

Notši said patriotism will play a big part for the players because when they put on the Likuena shirt bearing the nation’s flag, it is about fighting for national pride.
Likuena will leave the country early next week to Durban where they have been drawn in Group B with Mauritius, Angola and Mozambique.
In an interview with thepost on Tuesday, Notši said he is expecting tough encounters across the group.

He said Mauritius is very aggressive and Likuena’s technical staff have already made the players aware and told them they will have to be careful.
Notši, however, said the most important thing for Likuena is to focus on their strengths which are sharpness and quick inter-passing and to make sure they do not concede at the other end.

Lesotho’s other two group opponents, Mozambique and Angola, are enjoying good spells of form and are both well-placed to qualify for next year’s Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON).

“Mozambique and Angola play football with the influence of Portugal, if you look at their (AFCON) qualifying games, they have talented players,” Notši said.

“In the (CAF) Champions League their teams get there and they bring experience and international exposure. They are not teams you just go (and play against), you have to be careful, but there are areas we can capitalise on and it’s an opportunity for our players to play against the best teams. We are expecting tough matches but we also believe in ourselves,” Notši added.

Notši will be working with Bantu head coach Bob Mafoso who was brought into the national team fold last week.
They are hoping to change the mood around Likuena after a gloomy two years under Jelusic which culminated in a run of four successive defeats before he was sacked.
Likuena’s last win, coincidentally, came against Mauritius – a 2-1 victory last July at the COSAFA Cup.

“Likuena has not been doing well lately, we need to bring back self-belief, and we have talented players,” Notši said.

“We need to make sure in training we do a lot of finishing because this is tournament football and we have to make sure we bring that (scoring goals) into the fold. Understand that patriotism also plays a part, we are fighting for national pride. We also understand Likuena’s form is not something that can change overnight but the experience and hunger the players have will help,” he said.

Notši has called up a mixture of young and experienced players. The majority of the players were already training under Jelusic and the only addition is Hlomelang Lebina of Lesotho Correctional Service (LCS). Lebina was the joint top scorer in the just ended Vodacom Premier League season with 15 goals.
Notši praised Lebina for his bravery and said Likuena will need to manage him well.

“Lebina is the only player I can say is new to the national team because others were already included in ntate Veselin’s team. He is brave, I like his bravery and he is trying by all means to express himself and I speak to him on a daily basis,” Notši said.

“He needs that to be assured,” Notši added.

“(Lebina) is playing a game that he loves, so every day he spends here, he has to go back with good memories so that he can give us what he has. We understand it’s not easy even at the tournament we have to manage him well,” he continued.

Notši said Likuena are in a transition phase and he believes the senior players are passing the baton to the younger ones. Some of the senior players in the squad such as captain Basia Makepe and Kopano Tseka have been with the national team for a decade and it is time to phase them out and rebuild a new Likuena with younger players.

For the young players, the COSAFA Cup is a stepping stone into the international arena, Notši said.

“These youngsters did well for their respective teams during the season and, if you look around, they come from youth developmental teams,” Notši explained.

“Mohlomi Makhetha was in Kick4Life’s development and that’s where LCS got him. Then you have Lebina, (Seahlolo) Mosoeu, there are others that we are looking at like ‘Mellere who has been outstanding for Linare,” he added.

“Others are still young, it’s just that they have been in the Premier League for a long time, but if you look at the average age in the team, it is players you can say are the future Likuena. It’s about continuity, COSAFA is an opportunity, it’s a stepping stone for them into the international arena. They deserve to be part of this team especially because they have done well for their respective teams,” Notši said.

Key defender Motlomelo Mkhwanazi is still recovering from surgery and is still under the care of the doctors. it is unclear if he will be involved in the COSAFA but he is training. Katleho Makateng returned to South Africa to start preseason with his premiership club, Richards Bay.

Notši said he did not know if his club would allow Makateng to join the national team in Durban but did not rule the striker out of Likuena’s plans.
Likuena squad:
Goalkeepers
Seahlolo Mosoeu, Sekhoane Moerane, Teboho Ratebisi

Defenders
Mohlomi Makhetha, Rethabile Mokokoane, Rethabile Senkoto, Rethabile Rasethuntša, Kopano Tseka, Basia Makepe, Thabang Malane

Midfielders
Thabo Lesaoana, Koenehelo Mothala, Lisema Lebokollane, Lehlohonolo Fothoane, Tumelo Makha, Neo Mokhachane, Tšepang Sefali, Tshwarelo Bereng, Tšepo Toloane

Forwards
Hlomelang Lebina, Jane Thabantšo, Motebang Sera, Katleho Makateng

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Women rugby stars picked by Free State

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Two Lesotho women’s rugby stars, Thato Moeti and Mookho Lesoetsa, have been selected to the Free State senior team for the 2024 season.
The duo have been selected after their sterling performances for Lesotho in the on-going Free State Women’s Rugby League in South Africa and now Moeti and Lesoetsa can look forward to competing in the Cheetahs League, which marks a major step in their rugby careers.

Moeti told thepost yesterday that she is “very grateful for the opportunity” to be part of the Free State squad.

“It has always been my wish to be selected and, finally, I made it in the eyes of the Free State management,” Moeti said.

“I believe that if (Lesotho rugby) players can play with heart and spirit, and if they show their talent in the league, they can also be selected next season,” she added.

The management of the Free State women’s team scouted players from Lesotho to join in their squad last year as well.

12 months ago, it was Palesa Pitso, Mosongoa Monaheng and Nthabeleng Lebetsa who were picked, and they remain with the squad.

The selected players sign yearly contracts with the Free State team and Lesotho’s contingent at the club is now up to five.

The team manager of the national women’s rugby team, Tumelo Phenya, said Lesotho’s players seem to improve and “become very competitive” when they compete across the border because everyone wants the exposure and opportunity to compete outside the country.

He said being part of the Free State Women’s Rugby League allows Lesotho’s players to showcase their talent and opens doors for them to be selected for the Cheetahs League the following year.

“We are very lucky that South Africa recognises our players, especially because rugby in South Africa is at a high level. It shows progress for us as a country that we can produce players that can be competitive internationally,” Phenya said.

Phenya said he aims to see Lesotho compete at the Women’s Rugby Cup one day.
The showpiece is held every four years and the next tournament is next year in England.

Phenya said Pitso, Monaheng and Lebetsa, who have now gained experience and exposure outside the country, are excellent products to promote rugby in Lesotho.
Pitso also happens to be the team manager of the Lesotho men’s rugby side.

“When we go to schools with them, students fall into the sport because they want to be like them. Even Pitso’s title says a lot to students, they see growth in rugby,” he said.

Unfortunately, rugby, especially the women’s game, is hamstrung by a lack of finances and support.

As a result, Phenya said there are many tournaments and invitations Lesotho fails to honour because of no funds.

Phenya pleaded with Basotho and local companies to invest in their sport so that women’s rugby can grow and improve.

Lesotho is currently part of the Free State Women’s League that kicked off last month and will end early in May.

The national side played two games.

Lesotho beat Spartans 34-12 and lost 34-7 to Central University of Technology (CUT).

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Seema speaks on good run

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Lesotho legend Lehlohonolo Seema has spoken on Sekhukhune United’s impressive run in the DSTV Premiership since taking over the reins at the Polokwane-based outfit in December last year.
“Babina Noko”, as Sekhukhune are affectionately known, were in 12th place when its management appointed the former Likuena captain as its new coach last year, but the team has since ascended to third position.

Seema joined Sekhukhune from Polokwane City, who were then in sixth position but now find themselves in 10th position since the Lesotho mentor left them for their rivals from the same province.
Speaking exclusively to thepost following a run of five victories which includes a 2-1 win over former club Orlando Pirates and Tuesday’s 2-2 draw against Cape Town City, Seema attributed the impressive run to the hard work his team has been putting on the training ground.

“I’m not surprised by the way the players responded to my way of doing things since I took over the reins. On beating Pirates, it’s not even about Pirates, it’s all about collecting points,” Seema said.
“Beating a big side is always a bonus and giving yourself a chance to finish in a better position. There was nothing personal, but we are taking it one game at a time. We are happy as a club to collect the three points because competition is tight, and the margins are very close, and we just want to collect as many points as possible.

“Remember this team was playing in the Confederations Cup though it was not doing well in the league, but they have shown that they won games in the continent in countries like DRC to have made the group stages of the continental competition,” he said.

Seema believes being together in their camp has also worked wonders for his team to be the most inform team in the DSTV Premiership at this juncture.
They are now in third position behind defending champions Mamelodi Sundowns as well as another surprise package in Stellenbosch FC.

“There is no secret honestly in the form that we have been enjoying as a club, but just hard work on the training pitch, having a common goal, respecting each other, and listening to each other,” Seema said.

“We have remained humble on and off the field as a team, we have made it easy for players to work with us by asking questions on the training ground and we give them answers to come up with solutions for problems that we have as a team.

“Credit must go to the whole technical team, the analysts, fitness team, medical team because since I arrived here, we have had a very tough schedule and we don’t have a big squad, but they have managed it very well.

“The analysis team has been doing a magnificent job giving us everything we need on time to plan on our team as well as the opponents and our team has coped with all the challenges thrown at us,” he said.

Seema also opened up on Lesotho international, Teboho Letsema, who was registered by Sekhukhune in the January transfer window.

“Letsema is our player, we have signed him but could not register him because we already had five foreigners but because we could not miss out on such a talent, we had to get his signature,” Seema said.

“We managed to loan him out to Orbit, who are in the Motsepe Championship and competing. It’s good for him and he is a player to watch next season,” he said.

Mikia Kalati

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Lioli captain says job not done yet

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Lioli captain Mafa Moremoholo insists the job “is not done” in the race to claim the Vodacom Premier League crown.

Last weekend was a game-changer in the title chase and Lioli are now firmly in the driver’s seat to lift the league trophy after results went their way in dramatic fashion.

The drama started last Saturday when recently crowned People’s Cup champions Matlama were stunned 3-0 by Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS).

24 hours later, Lifofane held fellow title rivals Bantu to a surprise 1-1 draw and the weekend ended with Lioli five points clear at the top of the table after ‘Tse Nala’ overcame Liphakoe 1-0.

Although Lioli, with 56 points from 24 matches, have played a game more than Matlama (51 points) and Bantu (49 points), points in hand are better than those still to gain.

Furthermore, if Lioli win their remaining six matches, they will be crowned champions regardless of other results and that has uncorked joy in Teyateyaneng (TY) with some fans already planning festivities for when Lioli end their eight-year title drought.

List of champions since 2010:
2010 Matlama
2011 Lesotho Correctional Service
2012 Lesotho Correctional Service
2013 Lioli
2014 Bantu
2015 Lioli
2016 Lioli
2017 Bantu
2018 Bantu
2019 Matlama
2020 Bantu
2021-22 Matlama
2023 Bantu

Moremoholo however warned against any premature celebrations and insisted Lioli have not reached the levels the club’s players and coaches want to attain.
The stalwart defender said the gap the TY giants have established at the top means nothing because they still have six crucial games to play.

“As for being the champions of the league, I cannot comment on that because we are on a serious journey,” he said. “The title can be missed by an inch, so we do not want to praise ourselves now.”

Moremoholo pointed out that the league’s intensity has picked up in the second half of the season, and even though Lioli won 1-0 on Sunday, Liphakoe’s performance surprised him.
It was night and day from the first round clash in November when Lioli won 2-1, he said, this time Liphakoe were prepared and ready to fight.

It is going to be that way in every game for the remainder of the season because all teams want to improve their league position, Moremoholo added.

“Our games with Liphakoe are never easy because we have our own fight over our (similar) logos. We are birds of the same feather,” he said. “They approached us in a different way from the first leg, which surprised me. They gave us pressure and we had to fight. We still need to improve how we approach our games.”

As one of the leaders of the team, a lot of that responsibility will fall on Moremoholo.

So far, the skipper has led with aplomb and has been the epitome of consistency while marshalling a defence that has conceded just 13 goals in 24 games. Only LMPS (11 goals conceded in 24 games) have a better defensive record.

Moremoholo’s leadership has duly been recognised around the league and ‘Tse Nala’ coach Motheo Mohapi called him Lioli’s best player after their win over Liphakoe.
Mohapi said the defender’s efforts as captain and his willingness to work to lift his team has been key to their success.
Moremoholo preferred to praise his teammates, though.

“It is through the hard work of the team for someone to be recognised. I really appreciate my teammates for setting the spotlight on me to be recognised (by Mohapi),” he said.

The Lioli skipper added that the club’s targets extend beyond this season – they want to see ‘Tse Nala’ recognised in continental competitions in the next two to three years, and their focus is not on just winning the league.

For them to become a competitive fixture in CAF competitions, Lioli will need to continue their noticeable improvement under Mohapi.

Last season they finished eighth place in the league with 42 points, 26 points behind eventual champions Bantu. Lioli have already shattered that points total in Mohapi’s first season in charge and Moremoholo believes there is more room to grow.

He said the core of Lioli’s players are still young which gives them a chance to improve and reach their goal of future dominance while the presence of Mohapi as coach is another reason Moremoholo sees a bright future for the team.

“Most of our players are still young, they are early in their 20s, and they will hold the team for some years while they gain experience. I also appreciate (Mohapi) for being part of our team and holding our hands to return the dignity of the team,” he said.

The club’s collective efforts have manifested the return of Lioli fans to grounds this season and that vociferous 12th man, which was key to Lioli’s successful title-winning teams in the past, will again be crucial in their next game on Sunday against Lijabatho.

“Seeing supporters at our games lift our spirits and it gives us hope to win every game,” Moremoholo said.

“(The Lioli fans) should never give up on us because through their presence, we get motivated.”

Weekend fixtures:
Saturday
Bantu vs Liphakoe
Manonyane vs Likila
Lifofane vs CCX
Lijabatho vs Lioli
Sunday
Machokha vs LDF
Naughty Boys vs Matlama
LMPS vs Linare
ACE Maseru vs LCS

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