Thamsanqa Gabuza will be hoping to help Supersport United win the MTN8 trophy. Photo: Sydney Mahlangu/BackpagePix
The battle that could decide where the MTN8 trophy goes on Saturday night at Orlando Stadium will be fought by two men seeking redemption. SuperSport United’s Thamsanqa Gabuza and Highlands Park’s Thela Ngobeni have struggled to find lasting love on the pitch.

Thamsanqa Gabuza

The forward is walking with an extra bounce in his step at Matsatsantsa a Pitori where he feels love. He didn’t get much of that at Orlando Pirates, clashing with his own fans and at one point throwing his shirt to them before he walked off the pitch before half-time. So, when he left the Sea Robbers’ ship to join the blue army, not many tears were shed in Orlando. But Gabuza has an opportunity to leave his old stomping ground as a champion, months after leaving it, while the Buccaneers are in troubled waters.

SuperSport have showered him with love, in return he has scored three goals in three games in the MTN8 in a commanding display. His strike partner, Bradley Grobler, has been raving about Gabuza.

“I had no doubt that he was the right person for the job,” Grobler said. “When (SuperSport chief executive) Stan Matthews called me at the beginning of the season to say that they are considering bringing him here, I jumped straight away that if ever there is the right person for this team, it’s him. Not just the way he plays but his attitude, everything about him fits into the way we work as a club. That shows in how he has adapted. I think that he is full of confidence at the moment. I have always rated him highly as a player, not necessarily to score goals but his hold up play and his work rate. Everything is exceptional. I am not surprised at all that he has started so well.”

Thela Ngobeni

The former Kaizer Chiefs and Mamelodi Sundowns goalkeeper has a winner’s medal of every trophy on offer in the country, including the CAF Champions League. But most of those medals mean nothing to him, he didn’t earn them. He was at the right place at the right time, being part of a winning team but not contributing anything. His first real winner’s medal was the Nedbank Cup he won with Free State Stars last year. He was a vital cog of the Ea Lla Koto machinery that produced a remarkable fairy-tale run.

He could be a part of another fairy tale should he lead the Lions of the North to glory in what would be the club’s first major title. Ngobeni hasn’t been beaten in the MTN8. His three clean sheets helped Highlands’ shy attack get to the final, having scored just one goal. In a battle that will be between United’s attack and Highlands’ defence, Ngobeni will be a key player.

The winner of that contest will lift the MTN8 and get R8 million while the loser will get the same amount of money as the teams that were knocked out in the first round. For Ngobeni and Gabuza, a good performance will go a long way in repaying the faith and the love they have finally been given.

Bonginkosi Ndadane