Maritzburg United were ecstatic after drawing the match against Log Leaders Mamelodi Sundowns and celebrated with the Man of the Match Siphesihle Ndlovu. Photo: Gerhard Duraan/BackpagePix

Both Fadlu Davids and Luc Eymael have found their own unique winning formula at Maritzburg United and Free State Stars respectively.

But what is it that makes the two coaches, who face off in the Nedbank Cup Final on Saturday at the Cape Town Stadium, tick?

We zoom in on how they have defied the odds this season.

Fadlu Davids

Age: 37 this month

Story so far: He is in line for individual honours as well thanks to Maritzburg’s journey this season, a campaign in which they have fought their way into the top four of the Premier League, the semifinal of the MTN8 and are now finalists in the Nedbank Cup.

Alongside league winner Pitso Mosimane, expect Davids to also be a contender for the Absa Coach of the Year award.

Coaching career: A true scholar of the game and a man who fine-tuned his craft under the watchful eye of German Ernst Middendorp at both Maritzburg and Bloemfontein Celtic before. Having been interim coach on countless occasions, Davids was finally appointed permanently in July 2017.

What he got right: Whether Maritzburg win the Nedbank Cup or not, the young mentor has already surpassed expectations and fulfilled his mandate in his first full season as head coach. When chairman Farook Kadodia set what at that time seemed an ambitious target of asking Davids to finish in the top four of the Premiership and reach one cup final out of the three domestic tournaments, eyebrows were raised.

But Davids signed the contract and promised to deliver, and has done so.

In an era where the global football trends require a young and energetic coach with out-of-the-box thinking, Davids, a former striker whose career was cut short by injuries, has emerged and taken the PSL by storm.

Winning the cup in Cape Town on Saturday will be a lasting legacy that the club will cherish as its greatest achievement. As it is, going all the way to face Stars is already a first for the Midlands outfit. Who knows just how much Davids can achieve if backed by Kadodia in his vision to stabilise a side that’s been known more for being a surprise package the one season and a complete flop the next?

Fadlu has been guaranteed the spine of his team, the top performers this season, will not be sold to their domestic rivals unless the offer is from a European club.

Should they lift the cup there will be renewed belief from players like goalkeeper Richard Ofori, defender Siyanda Xulu, midfielder Siphelele Ndlovu and talisman Lebogang Maboe that there is more to achieve at Maritzburg than elsewhere for at least two more years.

Maritzburg's Fadlu Davids has taken the club to new heights this season and will hoping to capture their first piece of silverware in the Nedbank Cup. Photo: BackpagePix

Luc Eymael

Age: 58

Story so far: The Belgian coach was appointed at Stars two matches into the season as the club feared Sammy Troughton would relegate them if he stayed on. With their main objective to survive the drop and retain their PSL status, Eymael only had to worry about staying up. However, an experienced and well-travelled coach like he is preferred a bigger challenge and aimed for the top eight. He’s ticked all the boxes.

Coaching career: Eymael’s critics will tell you that he is a nomad and only ever works for the highest bidder. And his track record suggests this is indeed true, but it is also down to his success rate that the Belgian is sought after. A little loyalty wouldn’t hurt though.

What he got right: Stars knew the type of coach they were getting in Eymael when he replaced Sammy Troughton quite early in the campaign, having watched him do wonders at Polokwane City a season earlier by turning the Limpopo outfit into dark horses in the title race.

And that’s exactly what he’s done at Ea Lla Koto, turning their fortunes around from being relegation candidates over the past four seasons to having an outside chance of winning the title until the final weeks of this 2017-18 term.

What is even more impressive about the Belgian mentor is the fact that he is working with the same squad of personnel that came under a barrage of criticism from his predecessors for not being good enough to play in the Premier Division.

Eymael never complained, but instead hit the ground running - without having a preseason  to deliver what might be the club’s best result since winning the 1994 Coca-Cola Cup.

Free State Stars coach Luc Eymael will want to make sure his team can end their season on a high and win the Nedbank Cup. Photo: BackpagePix

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