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Sundowns have a date with fate as Gallants and Malesela stir memories of Nedbank Cup conquests

General view of the Nedbank Cup final draw being conducted at the Chatsworth Stadium in Durban on Sunday. Photo: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix

General view of the Nedbank Cup final draw being conducted at the Chatsworth Stadium in Durban on Sunday. Photo: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix

Published May 2, 2022

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Cape Town — Mamelodi Sundowns are masters at preparing thoroughly for matches, but have a date with fate at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium near Rustenburg in the North-West Province, where the 2022 Nedbank Cup final will be played.

The record shows that this year’s final is a repeat of the 2021 semi-final. Gallants, campaigning then as Tshakhuma Tsha Madzivhandila FC (TTM), defeated Sundowns 6-5 on penalties after extra-time failed to separate the teams in a goalless draw at Loftus Versfeld Stadium in April last year.

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The Premier Soccer League announced the details of the final over the weekend. The Royal Bafokeng Stadium, one of the 2010 FIFA World Cup official venues, will host the final on Saturday, 28 May.

Sundowns dominated from the 2021 semi-final and were impressive with intricate passing moves in midfield but failed to fashion clear-cut chances against a disciplined and well-organised TTM defence.

It was much the same story over the weekend when Sundowns survived against a stubborn Royal AM outfit who, in the end, surrendered the match with a silly mistake at the death.

Nedbank's Marketing and Corporate Affairs executive Khensani Nobanda said the Royal Bafokeng Stadium will host the Nedbank Cup final for the first time.

“We cannot wait to welcome fans back to a Nedbank Cup final, and what a venue to do just that,” said Nobanda. “Over our 15 years of involvement with the tournament, we have endeavoured to take the final to as many venues as possible to benefit surrounding communities through the match, and to allow as many fans as possible to experience the showpiece.

"We are thus immensely proud to be taking the Nedbank Cup Final to Royal Bafokeng Stadium for the first time.”

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Apart from noting the 2021 semi-final defeat, Sundowns will also note that the Gallants are coached by tactician Dan 'Dance' Malesela, who has already won a Nedbank Cup final under extraordinary circumstances.

In the 2019 final, Malesela guided First Division outfit to a stunning win against Kaizer Chiefs in the final in Durban. It was the first time in history that a lower-tier side defeated a Premiership side in the championship decider.

Malesela will therefore be appearing in his second Nedbank Cup final. For Sundowns co-coaches Manqoba Mngqithi and Rulani Mokwena, the final will be a 'first'. They have appeared in a final before as assistants.

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Interestingly, this year’s finalists Sundowns (2020) and Gallants (2021) also represent the last two winners of the Nedbank Cup competition, the country's oldest cup competition and styled along the same lines as England's FA Cup.

Mokwena would not be drawn into discussing Sundowns' chances in the final.

“We’ll think about Marumo Gallants as we come closer to the final,” said Mokwena. “Both teams will be away, and because of the draw, we’re home. It’s a very good side, well-coached, and we watched them on Friday (in their semi-final).

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Sundowns are next in Premiership action against Sekhukhune United on Tuesday before their big game against Kaizer Chiefs on Sunday.

Mokwena would not be drawn into Sundowns' prospects of winning the treble after they secured the Premiership title a week ago,

“We don’t speak about it,” said Mokwena. “We’ve got very important games to come, and it’s important we stay focused and try to win the next few games, and then deal with the final a bit later.

“We must be professionals. Mamelodi Sundowns is a club that expects us to win every match. For now, we’ll focus on the next four games, which are in the league, and we try again to make sure we win the remaining games and, hopefully, that momentum carries us into the final.

“We focus on all the games. At Sundowns we like to win all the games. There are no dead rubbers, there’s no excuse not to win any match. We’re professionals, and we’ll keep going, keep trying to win the next match.”

@Herman_Gibbs

IOL Sport

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