Jonty Mark

By Jonty Mark

Football Editor

Five things to look out for in the 2019/20 Nedbank Cup

The Nedbank Cup last 32 kicks off on Wednesday as last year’s surprise winners, TS Galaxy, travel to play Chippa United, hoping to shock another Absa Premiership outfit, much as they did Kaizer Chiefs in last season’s final. Phakaaathi’s Jonty Mark takes a look at five things to look out for in the last 32 fixtures, including in Wednesday’s opener.

Can TS Galaxy do it again?

TS Galaxy became the first side outside of the South African top flight to lift the Nedbank Cup when they stunned Kaizer Chiefs 1-0 at the Moses Mabhida Stadium on May 18. The likelihood of a repeat performance has to be slim but the Rockets, still under the wise coaching hand of Dan Malesela, could still produce a couple of shocks, starting with a visit to Chippa United on Wednesday. Malesela, a former Chippa coach, will know the Chilli Boys better than most, and it is also important not to be fooled by Galaxy’s poor league form – they were not exactly on fire in the GladAfrica Championship last season, but still managed to go all the way.

Zakhele Lepasa of TS Galaxy celebrates his goal during the 2019 Nedbank Cup final between Kaizer Chiefs and TS Galaxy at the Moses Mabhida Stadium. (Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix)

Kaizer Chiefs’ chance to erase some of the ghosts of May

Kaizer Chiefs head coach Ernst Middendorp insisted that he had not discussed the loss to TS Galaxy with his team, ahead of their Nedbank Cup last 32 clash with another GladAfrica Championship side, Royal Eagles, at the FNB Stadium on Saturday. Yet for a game that Middendorp felt bears no relevance on Saturday’s game, it was interesting that he clearly remembered the exact date of that nightmare, that looked at the time like it might spell the end for the German at Amakhosi. The recovery Chiefs have made this season, surging clear atop the Absa Premiership, has certainly given Middendorp extra credit in terms of dismissing the events of May, but there are bound to be a few nerves against Eagles, even if this is a side rooted to the bottom of their league, with surviving relegation surely a priority.

Ernst Middendorp, coach of Kaizer Chiefs during the 2020 Nedbank Cup Kaizer Chiefs Press Conference at the PSL Offices, Johannesburg on the 04 February 2020 ©Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix

Pirates v Wits and SuperSport v Sundowns – to open the draw or not to open the draw.

The Nedbank Cup has thrown up two massive games in the last 32, with Orlando Pirates taking on Bidvest Wits, and a Tshwane derby between SuperSport United and Mamelodi Sundowns. On a broader note, this brings into light a question over whether the Nedbank Cup last 32 draw should be seeded, with these games perhaps preferable in the latter stages of the competition. Then again, if the Nedbank Cup is a competition that wants to give as much chance as possible to the lower-league sides to do well, then there is no choice but to open up the draw. After all, a cup like this should be about fairy tales, and not simply about satisfying any sponsor’s need to see big sides in the later rounds. The Telkom Knockout does seed its draw, and this actually feels more like the wrong way to run a competition. Sundowns and Pirates are my prediction as to who will win two potentially cracking encounters this weekend.

JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA – JANUARY 09: Happy Jele of Orlando Pirates and Brighton Mhlongo of Bidvest Wits during the 2020 Nedbank Cup launch and round of 32 draw at Nedbank Headquarters on January 09, 2020 in Johannesburg, South Africa. (Photo by Lefty Shivambu/Gallo Images)

Where is the most likely giant-killing?

Highlands Park host GladAfrica Championship high-flyers Uthongathi FC on Saturday, in a game that could just produce the shock of the round, with the Lions of the North not really in the best of form in 2020, and Uthongathi right in the mix for promotion to the Absa Premiership. Highlands coach Owen Da Gama knows his opponents well, having played against them in the old National First Division, and this week praised his opposite number on Saturday, Johnny Ferreira for the job he is doing this season, with the Tongaat-based side just three points off the top of the table. Highlands do tend to be difficult to beat at Makhulong Stadium, but it could just be that Uthongathi can spring a surprise. Elsewhere, Mbombela United might just fancy their chances at home to Cape Town City, while TS Galaxy, as mentioned earlier, could just find a way to edge Chippa United.

Owen Da Gama, coach of Highlands Park during the 2020 Nedbank Cup Highlands Park Press Conference at the PSL Offices, Johannesburg on the 04 February 2020 ©Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix

Five of the teams in the Absa Premiership will have gone by the end of this round

As well as Orlando Pirates against Bidvest Wits, and SuperSport United against Mamelodi Sundowns, there are three other all-Absa Premiership games in the Nedbank Cup last 32, with Stellenbosch facing Maritzburg United, Bloemfontein Celtic going up against AmaZulu, and Polokwane City taking on Baroka FC. That means only five of the aforementioned sides will be left standing by the time the Last 16 gets underway. With Sundowns and Pirates already my favourites to go through, in the other matches, I would go with Stellenbosch to get a home win against Maritzburg, even though Eric Tinkler’s side have done pretty well so far this season, Celtic to have too much for AmaZulu, whose priority has to be avoiding relegation, and similarly for Baroka FC to have too much for a Polokwane City side rooted to the bottom of  the table.

Eric Tinkler, coach of Maritzburg United reacts during the Absa Premiership 2019/20 match between Maritzburg United and Kaizer Chiefs at Harry Gwala Stadium, Pietermaritzburg, on 22 December 2019 ©Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix

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