Johannesburg – SuperSport United will look to go one further in this year’s edition of the Nedbank Cup, as they enter the final cup tournament of the year having not been able to lift any trophies so far this season.
United were knocked out of the season’s opening cup tournament – the MTN8 – by Orlando Pirates in the quarter-finals back in August last year.
United then went one better in the next cup competition, the Telkom Knockout, where they were once again undone by Pirates, this time in the semifinals.
Now, captain Bevan Fransman and the rest of his Pretoria team are aiming to reach the final for a second year in a row, starting with a tricky first round tie away to the University of Pretoria in a captain city derby on Saturday evening.
“At SuperSport, our ambitions are simple. To win trophies… number one,” Fransman said ahead of the game at the Tuks Stadium.
“We have to start with a win, it’s going to be a tough game.”
Fransman reflected on last season’s disappointments, where United reached the finals of two cup tournaments, including the Nedbank Cup, but were unable to go all the way, stumbling at the last hurdle.
“Last year we were twice losers in cup finals, so I think this year we have to make up for games past and opportunities lost on previous occasions,” he said.
Having reached the final of last season’s Nedbank Cup, SuperSport were awarded passage into the Caf Confederations Cup, due to Kaizer Chiefs’ league and cup double, which meant United qualified as a result of finishing runners-up.
Fransman and his troops have made a bright start to their African adventure, beating Gaborone United of Botswana both home and away to make it successfully through the preliminary round of the continental tournament.
Meanwhile, in the Premiership, United currently occupy third spot behind Mamelodi Sundowns and Chiefs, with the race for league honours already looking like a two-horse affair.
With that in mind, Fransman’s teammate David Mathebula hinted that United would be slightly more motivated heading into the cup tournament, where silverware is still within reach.
“Looking at the league, there’s about 10 points between us and Chiefs, so I think we can do well in this tournament,” Mathebula said.
“We’ll try and win this one because in the previous tournaments we were knocked out, we didn’t make the final and we want to win silverware.”
The pair have already met twice this season, both times in the Premiership, where United walked away 1-0 winners on either occasion.
The two defeats extended Tuks poor record against SuperSport to four, having never beaten their neighbours since the University outfit gained promotion to the country’s top-flight.
AmaTuks skipper Tebogo Monyai, never one to back down from a challenge, dished out a subtle warning United’s way, insisting that the students were looking to turn the tables.
“If you look at our first game that we played against them at home, they were lucky to run away with the three points,” the 34-year-old defender said.
Monyai, however, was well aware that Tuks were handed a lifeline against United by being drawn to face them at home, where they have claimed all of their wins so far this campaign, while remaining winless and without a single goal on the road.
“We’ve been doing well lately at home, everyone can see that. We’ve struggled in our away games, we haven’t scored a goal yet, which is something I’m shy to speak about,” Monyai joked.
“At home we’ve been like a bullet. We score a lot of goals, our strikers are firing on all cylinders. We are a free-flowing team.
“I don’t see it as a stumbling block, playing against SuperSport. We haven’t beaten them yet, this is the only chance, there is no other time.”
Set for the later kick-off, Tuks and SuperSport’s tie is one of eight on Saturday, following the start of the tournament on Friday night, when Ajax Cape Town and Mamelodi Sundowns were set to do battle at Athlone Stadium.
Saturday’s only other, all-Premiership, clashes feature Golden Arrows and Polokwane City, who kick-off at 6pm, while Maritzburg United host Mpumalanga Black Aces in the simultaneous 8pm kick-off time.
On Sunday, defending champions Kaizer Chiefs travel to the Peter Mokaba Stadium where they meet Black Leopards, while AmaZulu are the only other Premiership side in action, against United FC at Olympia Stadium.
Nedbank Cup fixtures: Saturday: Thanda Royal Zulu FC v Orlando Pirates (2.30pm) (Umhlathuze Sports Complex), Free State Stars v Witbank Spurs (3pm) (Charles Mopeli Stadium), Platinum Stars v Great North FC (3pm) (Royal Bafokeng Stadium), AmaBEE FC v Wits (3pm) (Sinaba Stadium), Golden Arrows v Polokwane City (6pm) (King Zwelithini Stadium), University of Pretoria v SuperSport United (8.15pm) (Tuks Stadium), Moroka Swallows v Mbombela United (8.15pm) (Dobsonville Stadium), Maritzburg United v Mpumalanga Black Aces (8.15pm) (Harry Gwala Stadium)
Sunday: Black Leopards v Kaizer Chiefs (3pm) (Peter Mokaba Stadium), Milano United AFC v Bloemfontein Tigers (3pm) (Wynberg Military Base), United FC v AmaZulu (3pm) (Olympia Stadium), Mainstay United v African Warriors (3pm) (Mxolisi Bicky Jacob Stadium) – Sapa