IT is not often that rivals get to don the same shirt – unless they are on national team duty. But such is the uniqueness of the inaugural DStv Compact Cup, the teams from the four regions will fight for national bragging rights in the tournament.
The four teams from ‘inland one’ will be called Dinaledi FC, while those under ‘inland two’ are known as Warriors FC. Meanwhile, the teams from ‘coastal one’ will be called Amabutho, while those under ‘coastal two’ are known as Coastal United.
The draw for the semi-finals of the competition saw teams from the same region avoid each other at the Moses Mabhida Stadium today. United will face Dinaledi, while Warriors will face Amabutho later.
Local rivalry within the camps will be nullified as there’ll be a common goal: fight for national bragging rights and a cheque of R1 million. The competition will also help boost the confidence of certain players.
Itumeleng Khune was awarded a new deal by Kaizer Chiefs this season, while coach Stuart Baxter made him the club captain as well. But so bad has been his form that the 34-year-old only featured in one domestic game in the last six months.
The veteran keeper’s best days may be past him, but he brings vast experience to the team. That experience should be key in ensuring that the Warriors, which has Chiefs, Pirates, Swallows and TS Galaxy players, sail to victory.
With attackers such as Thembinkosi Lorch and Keagan Dolly expected to chip in with the goals, they will be upbeat that a stellar figure such as Khune will likely keep them out – at the other end.
Perhaps Dinaledi will be the team to beat in the competition. They have players from four-time defending champions Mamelodi Sundowns alongside Supersport United, Sekhukhune United and Marumo Gallants.
Players such as Lesedi Kapinga will be eager to use the tournament to work their way back into the Sundowns team. Despite being a skilful player, who also has a knack for scoring, Kapinga has fallen down the pecking order at Chloorkop.
This is due to the arrival of personnel such as Neo Maema who’s shown tremendous appetite to grow. Maema’s impact has led Sundowns to the summit of the standings with 44 points in the 19 league matches thus far.
However, it’s probably fair to say that Amabutho have teams that are in desperate need of redemption in the last six months. Royal AM have blown hot and cold lately. Amazulu, Golden Arrows and Maritzburg United have had roller-coaster starts.
Ernst Middendorp will look for positives by coaching his side, Amabutho, to a win in the competition, especially since he’s been tasked by Maritzburg to turn around their results soon or face the risk of being sacked.
One coach that has done enough to save his job is Steve Barker, after an impressive outing with Stellenbosch. But will he guide Coastal United, which has Stellies, Cape Town City, Chippa and Baroka players, to victory in the Viewers’ Choice?
With players such as Thabo Nodada (of Cape Town City) in his squad, Barker should have enough arsenal to trouble opposition. Nodada will miss the first three matches when the league resumes after being sent off against Supersport United last month.