The 25 finalists in the Shield Sbonis'iDiski campaign have been confirmed, and head coach Dumisani Thusi has shared his insight into the selection process, saying the scouting has reached the "rural, rural" areas in South Africa this year.
This year's contest took the coaches to the most remote parts of South Africa, and Thusi tells of his excitement at giving aspirant footballers across the country the chance to follow their dream.
"We've selected the final 25 from different regions in South Africa and, fortunately, each region will be represented," he told Soccer Laduma.
"Most of the time, you'll see top-level scouts going through the big cities and then they're done, but Shield is giving exposure to those regions where people never thought you could go and get players.
"I'm talking rural, rural, rural areas. When you arrive there, you can just see that people have been waiting for us for this opportunity."
Thusi also shed some light on the finalists, and what he and his fellow coaches were looking for during the selection process.
"One of our mandates, as coaches, is to look at... as a country, we are struggling in terms of striking, so we'd love to ensure that we improve in that department," he explained.
"The last few years, the campaign has been dominated by defenders, but this year we have about five strikers. It was a question of saying look, as much as we are looking to improve all of the departments, we want to go around and see if we can get more strikers.
"But I'm happy with the balance. I'm impressed with what I've seen from the goalkeepers, and we've got a number of left-footed players too, which is good as it's not easy to find good left-footers."
The selected finalists will report for their first training camp at the High Performance Centre in Pretoria on Sunday, 28 July 2019, before taking on the Orlando Pirates MultiChoice Diski Challenge side three days later.
From there, three winners will be chosen to travel to England, where they will get the chance to train with Chelsea at the club's state-of-the-art training ground in Cobham. The overall winner will be crowned the Shield Ultimate Player and walk away with a one-year contract with Orlando Pirates' MDC team.
For more information on dates, times and other key information, visit www.shield.co.za.