DURBAN – AmaZulu’s skilful winger Jabulani Ncobeni has vowed to win the battle of the KZN Midlands when Usuthu come up against Kaizer Chiefs in the first round of the Telkom Knockout at Moses Mabhida Stadium here today (8.15pm kickoff).
There will be five players who hail from the Midlands when Usuthu tackle Amakhosi as the KwaZulu-Natal side bid to reach their first cup final since 2010 when they lost 3-0 to Bidvest Wits in the final of the Nedbank Cup.
Ncobeni, who is from Pietermaritzburg, will come up against Philani Zulu, from Mphophomeni in Howick, and Maritzburgers Ryan Moon, Dumsani Zuma and Wiseman Meyiwa.
On AmaZulu’s side there’s Ncobeni, Sduduzo Dlamini and Mabhudi Khenyeza (Howick) who all hail from the Midlands.
“Chiefs cannot be taken for granted,” said Ncobeni.
“We are well prepared for the match. Our main objective is this match is to reach the quarter-finals. This is more like our home game.
“I didn’t play with (Wiseman) Meyiwa, but we played together with Philani at Maritzburg United. Du (Zuma) was at Real Kings and I was at Sobantu Shooting Stars at that time. We used to come up against each a lot. I speak a lot with Philani. We were joking with him earlier during the week and he told me not to come on his side.”
The Midlands has a history of producing top quality talent with the likes of Mbulelo “Old John” Mabizela, Sandile “AK-47” Ndlovu, Andile “Sguda” Cele, Michael “Bhiza” Dlamini, Bryce “Snege” Moon, Shane Morrison, Shaun Potgieter, Siphesihle Ngobese and Simphiwe Mbambo all from the area.
“Playing against people you know always gives you an extra motivation,” Ncobeni said.
“They all want to win and I also have the same mission. It will be a nice game for us as Midlands boys. We will be representing Midlands and there will be at least five of us. It is a good thing.
“Philani is operating as the left-back and I’m a winger. If I play there will be moments when we will come up against each other.”
Zulu has done well since taking over from the injured Tsepo Masilela at left-back for Chiefs.
“I know his strengths and weaknesses and the same applies for him,” Ncobeni elaborated with a smile.
“It will be 50/50 and I think I will come out on top. He is a defender and I’m the attacker. He has to marshall me more.”
Ncobeni will also face his former teammate in Khotso Malope. Together they helped Thanda Royal Zulu win the National First Division championship last season.
“We chat with the guys on WhatsApp,” Ncobeni explained.
“We won’t communicate on Friday because we will be all in camp. On match day, our friendship will be on hold. We are all at work and we will resume our friendship after the match.”
Usuthu have already pulled off surprise victories over the likes of Wits and Mamelodi Sundowns in the PSL this season. Will it be third time lucky for Usuthu? Ncobeni reckon so.
“Whenever we play Chiefs, Sundowns or Pirates we don’t need extra motivation from the coach. You can tell from the buzz at training.
“You always have to give 120 percent when you play Chiefs. Having said that though, it doesn’t mean we should relax when we play small teams.
“We also want to reach the next stage of the competition. We will give our best on Saturday,” Ncobeni concluded.
Telkom Knockout Fixtures
Saturday: Golden Arrows v Orlando Pirates, Polokwane City v Ajax Cape Town (both 3.30pm); Bloemfontein Celtic v SuperSport United (6pm); Kaizer Chiefs v AmaZulu, Bidvest Wits v Free State Stars (both 8.15pm)
Sunday: Chippa United v Mamelodi Sundowns, Baroka FC v Cape Town City (both 3.30pm).