Nedbank Cup win might offer some respite for Chippa United and Tshakhuma Tsha Madzivhandila
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The 50th instalment of South Africa’s premier club knockout competition will live up to its slogan – “the cup of dreams” – as the champions will come from either the Eastern Cape or Limpopo for the first time since the competition’s inception.
After four knockout stages of the tournament, Venda-based outfit Tshakhuma Tsha Madzivhandila (TTM) will face Gqeberha side Chippa United in the Nedbank Cup showdown at the Free State Stadium tomorrow night (6pm kick-off).
Both sides go into this encounter in the midst of a turbulence in the league as they are languishing in the relegation zone. But their league campaigns will be the least of their worries tomorrow as they’ll be minutes away from collecting a cheque of R7 million.
Chippa will be the favourites. They are the most experienced side of the two teams after playing in the elite division for eight years, having been promoted nine years ago. The Chilli Boys were also MTN8 semifinalists five years ago.
Despite the relegation axe staring them in the eye this season, Chippa have enough depth to compete for the Nedbank Cup crown. Coach Vladislav Heric is an experienced journeyman in South African football who also promoted the team back to the top flight in 2014.
Since his return to the club a few weeks ago, Heric has brought a breath of fresh air to the side. Not only are they confident as a group after back-to-back wins over Kaizer Chiefs and Stellenbosch FC but they’ve been pleasing to watch as well.
Talisman Kurt Lentjies is one of the experienced guys in the squad. His free role behind Augustine Kwem has troubled a lot of defenders. But expect Sizwe Mdlinzo to step up to the occasion against Tshakhuma in the City of Roses.
After all, the holding midfielder was part and parcel of the TS Galaxy side which became the first outfit from the GladAfrica Championship to win the competition after defeating Kaizer Chiefs in the final at the Moses Mabhida Stadium three years ago.
Tshakhuma are a few weeks away from celebrating their one-year anniversary, after buying the status of Bidvest Wits last year, and what better way to mark the occasion than with a gold medal and another stint in the top flight?
In the last few months, assistant coaches Mpho Maleka and David Mathebula have done an impressive job at the club by instilling a sense of belief that they can avoid the drop and bag their maiden silverware.
Coach Dylan Kerr has continued where his understudies left off. He beat Chiefs in the league last week. But it’s players such as
Thabo Mnyamane, Thabo Rakhale, Washington Arubi and Joseph Malongoane who have to hold the hand of the newbies tomorrow.
That foursome has been playing in the top flight for some time. Mnyamane and Rakhale are silk on the ball and deadly on set pieces, while Arubi’s heroics between the sticks were responsible for the win over Mamelodi Sundowns in the semi-finals three weeks ago.