Johannesburg - This is a weekend ripe for a giant-killing act as the lesser lights of South African football take aim at kings in the last 32 of the Nedbank Cup.
Perhaps the most vulnerable of all so-called royalty right now are Orlando Pirates, who travel to KwaZulu Natal this afternoon to face Thanda Royal Zulu.
It has been a difficult start to the year for the Buccaneers, who have lost a coach, with Roger de Sa stepping down, and have had their Absa Premiership title chances severely damaged by losses to Mamelodi Sundowns and Polokwane City, as well as this week’s rather tepid point at Ajax Cape Town.
It was Pirates who were involved in the shock of last season’s Nedbank Cup when they were dumped out of the competition 4-1 in the last 32 by Safa Second Division side Maluti FET College.
Ironically, today’s opponents, Thanda, got to this stage of the competition by taking down the very same Maluti 3-2 after extra-time in the preliminary round.
Thanda are not quite what they once were in those heady days between 2007 and 2009 when they played in the Absa Premiership. The Richards Bay side are currently third from bottom of the National First Division and also lost a coach this season, Professor Mlungisi Ngubane sacked in November, with Thami Ngubane coming in.
They do, however, boast some top-flight experience in their ranks, especially in attack, with former Moroka Swallows striker Phumulelo Bhengu and journeyman David Radebe.
Pirates have had striking problems of their own all season and haven’t hit the back of the net in three matches.
“We will score goals because our team go forward very well. We attack with pace and it is just a matter of us keep (sic) calm when we have the ball in the other half of the field,” the Buccaneers’ Mozambican striker Helder Pelembe told the club’s official website.
AmaBEE FC are another side with a chance to cause a shock as they host Gavin Hunt’s Bidvest Wits in Daveyton today. AmaBEE usually play in Tembisa but had their game moved by politics, with the ANC hosting a rally today at Makhulong Stadium.
AmaBEE, whose name stands for Ama Boys Empowerment Ekasi, play in the Safa Second Division.
Elsewhere today, Great North FC, another Safa league side from Seshego, travel to Phokeng to take on MTN8 and Telkom Knockout winners Platinum Stars.
Great North are owned by Harry Ledwaba, the son of the South African football administrator and former owner of Ria Stars, Ria Ledwaba.
As for Moroka Swallows, they will look to bounce back from their home Premier League defeat to SuperSport United in midweek as they host another Safa Second Division side in Mbombela United from Nelspruit.
Mbombela were hammered 4-1 by Vasco Da Gama at the same stage of this competition last year.
There are also three all Premiership Cup ties on Saturday as Golden Arrows host Polokwane City, Maritzburg United entertain Mpumalanga Black Aces and a Tshwane derby sees University of Pretoria take on SuperSport United.
Sunday the plum tie sees Kaizer Chiefs, looking to defend their title, travel to NFD side Black Leopards.
Saturday: Thanda Royal Zulu v Orlando Pirates 2.30pm; Platinum Stars v Great North FC, AmaBEE FC v Bidvest Wits, Free State Stars v Witbank Spurs (all 3pm); Golden Arrows v Polokwane City 6pm; Maritzburg United v Mpumalanga Black Aces, Moroka Swallows v Mbombela United, University of Pretoria v SuperSport United (all 8.15pm)
Sunday: Black Leopards v Kaizer Chiefs, United FC v AmaZulu, Milano United v Bloem Tigers, Mainstay United v African Warriors (all 3pm)