Key battles that will decide TTM’s or Chippa’s destiny in the Nedbank Cup final
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CAPE TOWN - Destiny awaits either Tshakhuma Tsha Madzivhandila or Chippa United at the Free State Stadium this evening – as one of the two teams will be crowned Nedbank Cup champions for the first time in their existence.
Both teams will not leave anything to chance though. That's why the duels between Thabo Mnyamane and Frederic Nsabiyumva and Miguel Timm and Sizwe Mdlinzo and Alfred Ndengane and Augustine Kwem could be key to the outcome hands of the newbies in Bloemfontein.
Mnyamane may not be the quickest of players, but expect Nsabiyumva to watch him like a hawk . The Burundian defender has been an integral figure for the Chilli Boys in the last few seasons – his workrate has been rewarded with the armband.
Nsabiyumva is a good reader of the game and hardly puts a foot wrong during a tackle. His height has also helped him to win almost all the aerial duels in Chippa's final third. And that’s why he’ll be hoping to hoist the club’s first ever crown in the top-flight.
Maritzburg United's decision to let go of Timm after his contract ended last season made no sense.
The 29-year-old was the heartbeat of the Team of Choice alongside Keagan Buchanan whose contract was also terminated by the club earlier this year.
At Tshakhuma, Timm hasn’t dropped his head. Instead, he remained the composed engine room operator who has made the team tick going forward and defensively. His display has seen him receive praises from pundits who reckon that he might move to another club before the start of the new season.
The Durban-born footballer has to ensure he wins the duels in the midfield, especially against Mdlinzo. The Chippa ace is also silk on the ball like Timm, except that he doesn’t shy away from going all out during hardcore tackles.
Mdlinzo has advantage on his side as he’ll be making his second appearance in the Nedbank Cup final in just three years. He was part of the TS Galaxy side which won the crown after beating the ailing Kaizer Chiefs in the final at the Moses Mabhida Stadium.
After falling down the pecking order at Orlando Pirates, following the arrival of Thulani Hlatshwayo, Ndengane needed a new challenge. Tshakhuma added him to their newly revamped squad ahead of the season.
Ndengane has had a rollercoaster season at TTM. He received a red card against Kaizer Chiefs when his side was hammered 3-0. But since then, he’s dusted himself off, winning a couple of Man of the Match accolades along the way in the Nedbank Cup.
His physical prowess and defensive abilities will be put to the test against an equally bulky-shaped Kwem.
Ndengane is not the quickest of defenders but he can play players off the park as long as he sticks to the defensive basis, including keeping his eyes on the ball.
Kwem has been an integral figure for Chippa since joining the side two seasons ago.
He can easily hold up play for his fellow striking contingent, while his pace and good positioning have seen him score some crucial goals for the side over the years.
He’ll know that in order to increase his chances of breaking into the Nigerian senior national team – the Super Eagles – ahead of the Africa Cup of Nations finals next year, he has to win on all fronts: saving Chippa from relegation and winning the Nedbank Cup.
OH, no, it's the Spanish Grand Prix this weekend!
Commence the rolling of eyes, the blustery talk of how it shouldn't even be on the race calendar, and the trepidation that we will get a “Noah's Ark” grid and procession race.
All valid concerns.
But maybe it will be different this year, perhaps the duel between Mercedes and Red Bull will result in an exciting weekend, perchance Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen and their teammates give us something to gush about, per adventure we are all wrong about one of F1's most “boring” tracks.
Here we look at four highlights, and a concern, that could make the Spanish GP a memorable one, but also probably not.
The team of Esteban Ocon and Fernando Alonso have quietly been going about their business since the season started. During pre-season, they were generally okay, if not spectacular, and that extended into the first race.
At Imola, however, a turnaround was noticeable, and last weekend in Portugal even more so. Alpine implemented a new aero-package then, and it is slowly paying dividends. In Portimao they finished seventh and eighth, respectively, and they could once again be the dark horses in the midfield at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.
All eyes might be on the battle between Mercedes and Red Bull, but another intriguing struggle is developing just behind the front-runners - the one between Ferrari and McLaren.
McLaren driver Lando Norris has simply been magnificent in the three races so far. At Bahrain he placed fourth, at Imola he secured a podium finish and last weekend at Portimao, he was fifth. He is in excellent form right now. Just behind him, and in touching distance, are the Scuderia of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz. 2020 is properly behind the Prancing Horse, and they are showing improvement with every race.
Last week, Sebastian Vettel was in a real pickle, and while this weekend his position is much improved, he will need to be on point again. At Portimao, Vettel seemed to have found some footing in his Aston Martin as he secured a Q3 appearance and 10th on the grid. It was an important milestone, and even though he would eventually finish 13th on Sunday, it showed that he can still eke out the best from what is at the moment a sluggish mid-field contender.
At the moment Lance Stroll - surprise, surprise - looks like the preferred driver, with the team owner's son receiving all of the updates to the RP21. The team says it is because they don't have enough time to upgrade both, but conspiracy theories persist that the team is working against Vettel. The German will need to put any such thoughts into his subconscious, and another ameliorate performance will surely do the trick.
After a brilliant and flawless performance in Portugal, Hamilton goes into the Spanish GP as the favourite, no doubt about it. He ain’t a seven-time world champion for nothing, and he showed why that is fact in Portimao.
But, and it is a big but, Red Bull are undoubtedly the fastest car over a single lap. Max Verstappen showed it in Portugal - he was the quickest in qualifying, and the quickest in the race. Yes, he fluffed it up by overstepping the track-limits, but it does not change this salient point. Moreover, Catalunya is known for its aerodynamic demands, and the advantage of having a set-up that is favourable to downforce.
And guess what? - That is how Red Bull rolls, while Mercedes had slight problems in that department during pre-season. It looks like Toto Wolff has somehow engineered a solution to that particular problem, but it is possible that Catalunya could expose it once again.
Strangely, Turn 10 La Caixa has been modified for this weekend's race due to safety concerns. Catalunya is already known for the difficulty in overtaking, and counter-intuitively, the FIA has decided to make it even harder.
Previously, Turn 10 was one of the few places where overtaking could occur. It was a hard-braking corner off of the track's second DRS-zone and mini-straight, making it possible for drivers to pass their rivals. That is no longer the case, instead drivers will be welcomed with a more flowing bend - like Catalunya really needs that sort of press ...