DURBAN – Maritzburg United are facing a mammoth task of ending a seven-year hoodoo of KwaZulu-Natal teams who have failed to reach the cup finals over the last couple of years.
The Team of Choice will lock horns against SuperSport United at Lucas Moripe Stadium in the first leg of the semi-final of the MTN8 (8.15pm kickoff).
The second leg is set for September 9 at Harry Gwala Stadium in Maritzburg.
The winner of this clash will face the defending champions Bidvest Wits or Cape Town City. The two teams will face each other in Cape Town on Sunday at 3pm.
Maritzburg United are making their second appearance in the semi-finals, having reached one in 2014 under Steve Komphela.
They lost 1-0 to Orlando Pirates in the Nedbank Cup. Maritzburg are looking to be the first team in seven years to reach the final under the Premier Soccer League Era.
AmaZulu were the last KZN team to reach the final. They were humbled by Bidvest Wits at the grand opening of the newly built FNB Stadium in 2010.
Wits rolled past Usuthu 3-0. Lamontville Golden Arrows are the only team in KZN to lift the cup under the PSL era, when they thumped Ajax Cape Town 6-0 in the MTN8 in 2008.
Manning Rangers also reached the final of the ABSA Cup in 2004. They went on to lose the final by 3-1 against Moroka Swallows.
Maritzburg are looking to be the fourth KZN side to reach the cup final. Team of Choice mentor Fadlu Davids was diplomatic about his approach for the match.
“We have played three games in seven days now. We have to take that into consideration. They are a fantastic side, we are a small team. We are just the underdog,” Davids said.
“They are the cup winners and we haven’t reached the cup final. We have to be realistic and give them the respect they deserve.”
The road to the final won’t be elementary for Maritzburg as they are facing a team with a cup pedigree, with SuperSport United playing in two finals last season.
They lost to Cape Town City in the final of the Telkom Knockout and came back strongly to lift the Nedbank Cup at the end of the season.
As much as SuperSport United have the cup pedigree, though, they haven’t won the MTN8 for a while now. The last time they lifted this cup was under Pitso Mosimane in 2004. Back then, it was sponsored by SAA.
SuperSport mentor Eric Tinkler has made a cup final in each and every season he has coached in the PSL.
In his first season as the head coach, he led Pirates to two cup finals. Unfortunately, he lost both of them to Etoile du Sahel of Tunisia in the Caf Confederation Cup and SuperSport United in the Nedbank Cup.
Last season, he won the Telkom Knockout with Cape Town City.
This indeed promises to be a titanic encounter as the two young managers come up against each other.
Will it be another final for Tinkler, or will Davids make history by taking the Midlands side to the final for the first time since its inception? Only time will tell.