Students could surprise

2011-12-10 00:00

MOST spectators in the stands will be supporting Orlando Pirates in tonight’s Telkom Knockout final at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban, but the tag of “underdogs” is sure to get a few neutrals shouting for Wits from the comfort of their couches.

Cup finals are always glamorous occasions, and with Mabhida sold out two days ago, tonight’s promises to be no different.

Wits have beaten AmaZulu, Jomo Cosmos and Santos en route to the final and have not conceded a goal in the competition so far, while Pirates have battled past Black Leopards, Moroka Swallows and Golden Arrows and conceded in every game.

This, and the fact that a Ryan Chapman-inspired Wits outclassed the Buccaneers 3-1 in a PSL encounter three weekends ago, suggests that tonight’s final could be far closer than Bucs fans would care to admit.

Wits have also beaten Bucs the last three times they have met in knockout competitions, but even with the stat books piled up against them, the Soweto giants will go into the match as overwhelming favourites.

Coach Julio Leal spoke this week of the importance of striker Benni McCarthy to his side’s ambitions of winning silverware this season.

McCarthy, who didn’t play during his side’s PSL defeat to Wits, has shown glimpses of his class this season, but has managed only three league goals so far. But he is largely the reason that Bucs are able to take part in tonight’s final. He single-handedly steered Pirates through their quarter-final against Swallows with a brace that included a free kick that will surely be a candidate for goal of the season.

He is still not in his best shape, but that appears to matter less now than it did during his time in England. McCarthy’s prowess no longer lies in his mobility, but in his ability to be in the right place at the right time and to finish opportunities in the 18-yard area.

Wits will know that they need to focus on more than McCarthy.

Pirates are sure to put out a side littered with raw talent. Daine Klate is among the best in the league when it comes to getting around defenders and delivering dangerous balls.

In Andile Jali and Oupa Manyisa Bucs have a midfield pairing that on its day has the ability to boss any opposing team off the ball and out of the game.

A lot will be expected of the 24-year-old Chapman in front of goal for Wits. The striker has gone about making a big name for himself with a string of good performances in the PSL this season.

The match kicks off at 8.15 pm and will be televised on SABC 1 and SuperSport Four.

Telkom knockout: Bucs to bank on McCarthy magic

PREVIOUS WINNERS:

2010 — Kaizer Chiefs

2009 — Kaizer Chiefs

2008 — Ajax Cape Town

2007 — Kaizer Chiefs

2006 — Silver Stars

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