Maritzburg United have every right to believe they can defy the odds and capture the Telkom Knockout crown at the expense of Mamelodi Sundowns when they clash in the final at Durban’s Moses Mabhida Stadium on December 14.
The Team of Choice beat Kaizer Chiefs 2-1 at Mbombela Stadium to reach their second final in the Premier Soccer League era after they played in the 2018 Nedbank Cup final.
Sundowns booked their spot in the finale via a 2-1 victory over Lamontville Golden Arrows at Sugar Ray Xulu Stadium in Clermont.
The Brazilians are firm favourites to be crowned champions because of their cup pedigree, while Maritzburg have lost the only final they have played in previously.
But the Midlands outfit are in red-hot form. Coach Eric Tinkler’s men are unbeaten in their last eight games across all competitions and will be hoping to carry that momentum into the final.
On their road to the final they got the better of Bidvest Wits, Highlands Park and Chiefs.
Maritzburg are now one game away from history. They are on the verge of becoming the first KwaZulu-Natal side to win Mzansi’s version of the English League Cup in 27 years.
AmaZulu were the last team from this region to reign supreme in the competition back in 1992 when they dispatched Amakhosi 3-1 in the Coca-Cola Cup final.
The hopes of an entire province lie with Maritzburg. But can they do it? In the past, the so called smaller sides have shown it can be done with Baroka FC, Cape Town City, Platinum Stars and Silver Stars all having won the competition
When Baroka stunned Orlando Pirates at Nelson Mandela Stadium in Port Elizabeth last season, no-one fancied them. The Buccaneers were favourite to be crowned the champions.
It is not only Baroka who have proven that it is possible.
Cape Town City collected their maiden trophy in the same competition.
Ironically, Tinkler was the coach at that time. It also happened to be his first major trophy as a head coach.
He was up against Stuart Baxter’s SuperSport United.
Matsatsantsa a Pitori were sweeping past everything in front of them at that time but City defeated them to win their first piece of silverware.
It was in 2016 when City were won the TKO, so it is possible.
Sundowns have won the competition on three occasions and are gunning for their fourth. In 2012, they were humbled by Bloemfontein Celtic at Moses Mabhida Stadium in the same competition. Botswana international Joel Mogorosi was the hero of the night with his solitary strike.
It was Clinton Larsen’s first trophy as the head coach.
Stars also wrote their own history in 2013 by beating Pirates 2-1 at Mbombela Stadium to lift the TKO.
Maritzburg have to draw inspiration from these small sides who made use of their underdog status to reign supreme in the past.
Sundowns will be no push overs. They are currently the best team in South Africa.
Statistics don’t lie but history should inspire the Team of Choice and they have a chance to do it in their home province.