Golden Arrows could hardly be in a better place ahead of Saturday's Nedbank Cup showdown with Platinum Stars at the Princess Magogo Stadium in KwaMashu. Barring long-term injury casualty, defender Lehlohonolo Nonyane, who resumed contact training this week, Arrows are in a good space to tackle the North West outfit.
Playing at home is another boost, considering they struggled home and away in the league against the visitors. Arrows lost 1-0 to Stars in Durban in November and 2-0 away last month. Any extra advantage will be welcomed by the Durban side who are younger and less experienced than their rivals.
Arrows are campaigning with the bulk of the squad that won them promotion to the top flight two seasons ago, while they meet a side that are into the group stages of the Confederation Cup.
“We are at the stage of the season where not many teams in our position can make it a season to remember. We want to reach the semi-finals and make it into the top eight. That’s our objective,” said Arrows coach Clinton Larsen.
Teams like Arrows are the so-called smaller ones, with a limited budget. They must punch beyond their weight to sustain their position in the league and the national cup. Not having to contend with relegation is a major plus factor.
“We're in a good situation. We can put out the strongest team. We'd like to achieve on both fronts, the league and cup, so it’s a nice space to be in,” Larsen added
Although Nonyane is back, he will be considered for selection after this weekend. However, Larsen was happy that midfielder Danny Phiri and defender Limbikani Mzava were fighting fit after minor niggles.
Every player is needed for what will be a tight finish to the season, reckoned Larsen, as he kept one eye on the upcoming league matches.
“We have a hectic programme of three matches in a week. After Saturday we go to Polokwane City on Tuesday, and then Sundowns on Friday. So we need everyone," he said.
“We will probably freshen the team up a little bit. There might be one or two fresh legs coming in, considering the league programme, but the core of the team will stay the same.”
Having twice lost to Stars makes Arrows aware of the challenge they face. It’s a battle of youth versus experience. Youngsters such as Kwanele Hlongwane, Nduduzo Sibiya and Sibusiso Sibeko will have to step up their game to match more experienced counterparts like Vuyo Mere, Solomon Mathe and Henrico Botes.
Arrows won’t be short on confidence, having knocked out Mamelodi Sundowns on their own turf in the last round. Their 1-0 win, courtesy of Sibiya’s breakaway second-half goal, was their first cup triumph over Sundowns in six attempts. And incentives there are aplenty. The winners pocket R7-million. There is also the bonus of representing the country in the CAF Confederation Cup for the winners. Arrows just need to guard against over-confidence.