CAPE TOWN - Cape Town City’s famed defensive organisation and structure will need to be at its very best if they are to repel the expected offensive bombardment from Bidvest Wits in Sunday afternoon’s MTN8 semi-final, second leg tie in Johannesburg (3pm kickoff).
The Cape side takes a 1-0 lead into the match from the first leg, but remains fully aware that it’s a fragile advantage. Wits have one of the strongest squads in the PSL, and they are hurting after two defeats to the Capetonians already at this early stage of the season. Make no mistake, the Clever Boys, last season’s league champions, are determined, desperate even, to put one over City.
While City emerged victorious in the two previous meetings - in the league and the first leg Cup game - it was Wits who made most of the running and attacking.
The Johannesburg side was just unable to break down the resolute and fiercely combative defence of City. Now, when the two teams meet for the third time this season, with a place in a Cup final at stake, Wits will have studied the defensive patterns of the opposition and found a strategy to find a way beyond City’s tight, compact lines.
And, with City’s strength and resistance hinged in the middle, with the Herculean efforts of Austrian midfielder Roland Putsche and centre-back Robyn Johannes, it is out wide where Wits will be looking to soften up the Cape team.
Like Cape Verde often did with Bafana Bafana over the last week, it’s a case of hitting the flanks and dragging players out of position. To nullify this, City’s left and right-back - will have to be solid and disciplined. Wits have some fantastic creative, attacking talent out wide, like serial title-winner Daine Klate, Elias Pelembe, Daylon Claasen and Steven Pienaar. Shut them out, and half the battle will be won on Sunday.
It places added responsibility on City right-back Thamsanqa Mkhize, one of the PSL’s most under-rated performers. But, rest assured, he’ll be up for it. The 29-year-old was one of the Cape side’s stand-out performers last season - and he has continued in the same vein this campaign.
Consistent, reliable and an absolute team man, Mkhize won’t be over-awed by the ostensible “big name” Wits players he will be up against. He’ll do his job for the team, without fuss, without fanfare, but with great gusto and commitment. It’s just the nature of his game.
“We’ll go out there and do it for the team,” said Mkhize. “It will be a good challenge, especially considering that, against Wits, we will be up against the best. It’s another good test for us; we know it won’t be easy, but we also know that to stay on top you have to beat the best. So we want to go and face this challenge, because we want to get to the Cup final.”
Mkhize, like every other City squad member, also repeated the mantra so deeply inculcated in them all: that everything they did was geared towards the benefit of the team.
“We will continue to work hard for each other because that is the key to our success,” he said. “We will execute what we do at training. The coach will come up with the plan that will work for us, and that is what we will implement.”
In the end, it’ll probably all come down to game plan - and, for City, if Mkhize plays well, then a first-ever MTN8 Cup final beckons.