DURBAN – Maritzburg United might be one of the teams to beat this season in the Premiership but veteran goalkeeper Bafana Nhlapo believes that his star-studded Royal Eagles is capable of upsetting their fellow KwaZulu/Natal opposition when they meet in the Nedbank Cup last-16 on Sunday.
The arrival of Roger Sikhakhane at Eagles - their fourth coach this season - has given the team new life after they endured a better-part of the season languishing in the relegation zone.
Prior to Sikhakhane’s appointment, the club had already hired Allan Freese, Zipho Dlangalala and Kostadin Papic. The experienced trio, however, jointly pocketed a paltry four wins in 20 games during their tenure.The 42-year-old Sikhakhane, on the other hand, has already won two of his three games.
However, Sikhakhane’s true character is set to be tested when he meets Maritzburg in the knock-out competition; a team he previously faced when he coached Chippa United.
Nhlapo thus believes the arrival of Sikhakhane has improved the team and has also given them a huge boost going into the KZN derby.
“Right now, there’s self confidence in the guys, we play with freedom. We also trust each other,’’ Nhlapo said.
“Sikhakhane is a very experienced coach, we are learning a lot from him. I am also learning from him since I am also in the technical team. We are working for him, which is why we haven’t lost since he’s been here.’’
On facing The Team of Choice, Nhapo said: “A cup competition doesn’t look at the form of the league because anything can happen. Fadlu Davids (coach of Maritzburg) has done well in the PSL, we respect Maritzburg but anything is possible on the day. We want to cause an upset, and that will motivate us because we are still dreaming of the play-offs.’’
Nhlapo turns 38 years old on April 9, making him the second oldest player - joint with Henrico Botes - in the National Soccer League (NSL) behind Siyabonga Nomvethe (40).
The former Mpumalanga Black Aces shot-stopper argues that although his legs could still carry him for longer, he’ll decide at the end of the season what his future holds.
“I am not sure if I’ll retire at the end of the season because I still want to play,’’ Nhlapo said.
“I am still training with the team and the coach asked me to help in the technical team as well, so I am mostly focused on that. For now, I want to help out where I can.”