Gavin Hunt won his fourth league title last season. Photo: Gavin Barker/BackpagePix

JOHANNESBURG - South African coaches are set to make it a hat-trick of wins in the MTN8 knockout competition that begins on Friday.

After all, each of the eight competing clubs in the season-opening tournament will have local coaches calling the shots from their benches.

And with Gavin Hunt and Roger de Sa having won the previous two editions, the R8m winner-takes-it-all competition will once again prove that "local is lekker".

It is a situation that should send South African football brimming with pride, the dominance of locals on the elite league’s benches suggesting the heavy reliance on foreign expertise is fast diminishing.

Hunt, the multiple championship-winner who handed Bidvest Wits their maiden league title in the previous campaign, begins the defence of his title with a pretty tricky encounter at home against the fast-improving Clinton Larsen of Golden Arrows.

The Clever Boys host Abafana Bes’thende on Friday night and while many will readily pick a home win, bet against Larsen leading his men to a surprise success at your own peril.

Larsen, lest the memories have faded, is a coach who has previously won a cup competition - the Telkom Knockout with Bloemfontein Celtic over fancied Mamelodi Sundowns back in 2012.

That he took Arrows to the Nedbank Cup semifinal last season tells the story of a coach who knows how to tackle knockouts.

If the Hunt v Larsen clash is not as cut and dried, despite their having finished at the polar opposites (1st and last) of the top eight ‘table’, then the clash between ‘debutant’ coaches Benni McCarthy of Cape Town City and Polokwane City’s Bernard Molekwa should be even harder to predict.

Bafana Bafana scoring legend McCarthy is in charge for the first time, having previously worked as an assistant in Belgium while Molekwa has been elevated to the position permanently having occupied it in an acting capacity.

City’s Telkom Knockout success last season and their third place finish above a Polokwane side that are making their top eight debut would seem to suggest McCarthy will prevail.

But Molekwa has more knowledge of the PSL and is much more experienced having deputised for a number of coaches in the past.

Their clash on Saturday at the Cape Town Stadium will provide a good test of the young coaches’ credentials and set the tone for their maiden seasons in charge.

The evening clash between Kaizer Chiefs and SuperSport United will see a contest that should be easy to predict given the history between the coaches.

Eric Tinkler, in only his third season in charge as head coach, has generally had the better of Steve Komphela and will be out to ensure the status quo remains at the Moses Mabhida Stadium.

Unlike Komphela, Tinkler already has silverware to his name, having led Cape Town City to Telkom Knockout success last season.

Komphela though cannot afford a poor start and capturing the MTN8 will be uppermost in his priorities for the season, as he seeks to silence those who feel he is not worthy of the Amakhosi job after two barren terms in charge.

He was in the final of the competition two seasons ago but was unable to motivate Chiefs as De Sa’s Ajax won 1-0.

Winning is something Pitso Mosimane is accustomed to. But the Sundowns coach has yet to win the MTN8, although he won the competition with SuperSport United back in 2004 when it was under a different sponsor - SAA Supa8.

He has to get past debutant fulltime coach Fadlu Davids of Maritzburg City at the first hurdle.

Whoever goes through to the next round though, the fact that the trophy will be won by a local coach is great news for South African football.

The Star

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