Orlando Pirates striker Zakhele Lepasa has denied he encouraged teammate Tapelo Xoki for a challenge on Mamelodi Sundowns midfielder Haashim Domingo that saw Bucs’ defender red-carded in Saturday’s Carling Black Label Cup final.
Sundowns beat Pirates 4-0 in the final of the single-day tournament where earlier Bucs negotiated past Kaizer Chiefs on penalties in their semifinal and Downs beat AmaZulu 3-0.
In the final Xoki was sent off in the 21st minute for a dangerous challenge on Domingo, who had to be substituted off injured.
The incident sparked a furious reaction from Sundowns coach Rulani Mokwena, who was then involved in an angry remonstration with Pirates substitute Kermit Erasmus, a former Downs player who left Chloorkop for Bucs in August.
In interviews since the final Mokwena said his anger over the challenge was not directed at Xoki, but at Lepasa, who the coach said was “clapping at” and encouraging the tackle.
Lepasa tweeted a statement on Tuesday night where he said: “I would like to put it on record that I did not encourage my teammate Tapelo Xoki for kicking an opponent. It is factually incorrect to suggest that I — or any of my teammates, at that — would do that.
“I stood up to console up my teammate because I knew how important this game was to him.
“I understand that football is an emotional game and at the time everyone’s emotions were high. But I know for a fact that his act was not intentional.
“I would like to wish Domingo a speedy recovery and all the best for the future.”
Lepasa appeared to console Xoki, not applaud him.
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In an interview with Marawa Sports Worldwide Mokwena said: “My reaction was not even towards the tackle. It was towards Zakhele Lepasa who started clapping towards the red card and towards Xoki, as if to encourage that type of behaviour.
“Funnily enough after the match Lepasa came to me and said, ‘Coach, I apologise because I was also a victim of a career-threatening injury and have been out for a few months, and probably shouldn’t have done that’.
“From absolutely nowhere Kermit then remonstrated and said things towards me that I felt I did not deserve, especially from Kermit, particularly with what we had been through. There are a lot of things.”