This trophy will be massive for Maritzburg and Sundowns
The KwaZulu-Natal capital, where Maritzburg United hail from, or the country’s capital Pretoria, home to Mamelodi Sundowns, will sleep that day with champions in their midst.
What TKO means for Sundowns
For all their dominance of the Absa Premiership and good run in the CAF Champions League, Sundowns have a poor record in domestic knockout competitions.
The club has won only two knockout trophies since coach Pitso Mosimane took over in 2012.
It’s a poor record for a club of Sundowns’ ambitions, but it doesn’t bother them that much, with four league titles, the 2016 Champions League and 2017 CAF Super Cup all having graced their cabinet since Mosimane rescued the club from the brink of relegation seven years ago.
Mosimane has, after all, said the club’s ambition is to win the grands slams - the league and the Champions League. He hasn’t fared badly in that regard, taking Sundowns to one title away from 10 league trophies in the PSL and making them a known and respected brand on the continent.
But there is also a yearning to win more “small” trophies.
Sundowns have been far from their best, even when they won the league last season.
The club is fighting many wars on and off the field, winning the Telkom Knockout would calm many people and ease the small tensions that are arising.
The Brazilians will enjoy the lion’s share of supporters in Durban even though it’s just a short drive for the Team of Choice from Pietermaritzburg.
Sundowns fans are growing into a loud and colourful bunch thanks to the club’s exploits at home and on the continent.
Mosimane has thrown a number of hints that this could be his last season at the club. If it is, he would want to go out with a bang by continuing to spoil Sundowns’ supporters who are now used to the finer things in life since Mosimane transformed them from underachievers to being among the big boys on the continent.
What it means for Maritzburg
Maritzburg United supporters have been on a rollercoaster ride pumped full of steroids in the past couple of seasons.
In 2016 they survived relegation on the last day, beating Jomo Cosmos in their own backyard at Olen Park. Two years later they were in the final of the country’s premier cup competition, the Nedbank Cup.
A win over Free State Stars would have seen them take their brand to the CAF Confederation Cup. But instead of playing continental football the following season, the Team of Choice flirted with playing first division football after losing in the final.
They finished 15th and had to save their status through the rigorous and draining play-offs.
They lost two key players in Siphesihle Ndlovu and Fortune Makaringe after that. The pair followed on the heels of Lebogang Maboe, who had also relocated to Gauteng before them.
But despite their troubles and those losses, six months later they are in the final of the Telkom Knockout.
The sleepy hollow will be wide awake on Saturday afternoon, cheering on the pride of Maritzburg to bring them the city’s first trophy.
There is not much excitement that happens in the Midlands, but when Maritzburg are playing, the city comes to a standstill. Football Fridays are now a thing in the area where the team and the city become one, producing a kaleidoscope of colour and noise at the Harry Gwala Stadium.
Victory on Saturday would wash away many tears that have been shed in Pietermaritzburg at the expense of their beloved team.
It would be a massive coup for Eric Tinkler who came to the club after a troubled stint at Chippa United.
What’s good for Maritzburg is that they have nothing to lose, all the pressure is on Sundowns, who have the most fans and the bigger expectations.