Another competition, another opportunity for one of Africa’s most decorated soccer teams to try and extinguish a raging trophy drought that is now in its eighth year and continues to singe the team’s reputation as a powerhouse.
Kaizer Chiefs last lifted any form of major silverware back in 2015. However, with the arrival of the latest edition of the Nedbank Cup, Amakhosi have another shot at trying to bring back the glory days to Naturena.
The odds are not on the Gauteng outfit’s side though. Granted, Chiefs is the most successful club in the knockout competition — in its various guises over the years. Amakhosi have clinched it 13 times. Orlando Pirates are second-best, with a haul of eight Nedbank Cup trophies.
However, since last winning the national slugfest back in 2013 — under the stewardship of Stuart Baxter — Chiefs have underwhelmed.
In 2019 they were famously beaten by TS Galaxy (who were campaigning in the second tier of South African football at the time) in the final. Over the last two seasons, Amakhosi’s wretched run in the competition has continued — with them being dumped out in the first round in 2021, as well as 2022.
It’s hardly a good look for a team of Amakhosi’s stature, which boasts one of the most passionate support bases around.
In 2023, with the league title seemingly a foregone conclusion as Mamelodi Sundowns cruise to a sixth DStv Premiership title in a row — the opportunity for Chiefs’ redemption and joy lies in Nedbank Cup success.
It promises to be a tricky endeavour though. They face a Maritzburg United side which has had a relatively productive 2023 in the league to date — playing five and winning three matches. As well as recording a draw and a loss.
“This one is a cup game. It’s not going to be easy because of the fact that the approach will be totally different; the mentality of the players and the mindset,” Chiefs coach Arthur Zwane said in the pre-match press conference.
“We are playing a team that has been doing very well and we are looking forward to the game,” Zwane continued.
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“Whether it’s the cup or the league, we always want to win every game. I would love to go all the way to the final and win it because that is very important for us as a club. The players know what is at stake. We are going there with one thing in mind, to dig deep and make sure we go through. Nothing else.”
Zwane’s charges will have to dig deeper than a miner. The team’s displays since the turn of the year have been below par. Amakhosi have lost three, won one and drawn one from their five league outings in 2023.
Quizzed on the inconsistency of the Naturena-based club and whether that might work in his side’s favour, Maritzburg mentor Fadlu Davids said none of the Premiership teams could claim to be consistent — bar one.
“It’s not only a Chiefs problem. All the teams in the league, except for Sundowns, are not consistent. They [Chiefs] are a very good team. We don’t take them lightly, we give them the respect they deserve,” Davids told journalists.
The contest between the two sides kicks off at 7:30pm on Friday and will be played at the Harry Gwala stadium in Pietermaritzburg.
Sundowns have already moved to the round of 16 in the competition, as they played one of the first two curtain-raising matches of the knockout competition on Tuesday.
Masandawana had to play early in the week owing to their Caf Champions League commitments this weekend. Coach Rulani Mokwena’s charges flexed their strength in depth, with a number of first-team stars rested as they eased 3-2 past fellow Premiership side Richards Bay.
The Tshwane giants are the defending champions after clinching the Nedbank Cup as part of an impressive domestic treble last season. With the team’s quality in mind, they are favourites to push all the way again this campaign.
However, the Nedbank Cup is known for upsets. As Sundowns’ neighbours SuperSport United found out on Wednesday night — being ousted in the first round after losing 2-1 to Dondol Stars — who ply their trade in the third tier of South African football, the ABC Motsepe League. DM
Selected Nedbank Cup Round of 32 Fixtures:
Maritzburg United vs Kaizer Chiefs (7:30pm)
Stellenbosch vs Swallows (3pm)
Golden Arrows vs Pretoria Callies (3pm)
All Stars vs Orlando Pirates (8pm)
TS Galaxy vs Amavaravara (3pm)
Cape Town City vs Royal AM (6pm)
This content was originally published here.