United take aim at Telkom, Nedbank cups

2010-03-20 00:00

AFTER a Premier Soccer League season where they finished a disappointing 11th but showed potential, Maritzburg United turn their attention to the remaining two cup competitions, starting with their Telkom Knockout first-round tie against AmaZulu at Moses Mabhida Stadium this afternoon.

With a compressed league season already completed to give Bafana Bafana coach Carlos Alberto Parreira the opportunity to work with his squads in the month-long World Cup preparation training camps in Brazil and Germany, the Telkom Knockout and Nedbank Cup are all that remain of the South African domestic season.

Big sides such as Mamelodi Sundowns, Orlando Pirates, Kaizer Chiefs, Ajax Cape Town and SuperSport United, and even smaller teams such as Bloemfontein Celtic and Lamontville Golden Arrows, have been hit by the loss of players to Parreira’s camps and will see the cups as an opportunity to groom young players.

For teams like Maritzburg and AmaZulu, who both finished in the bottom half of the table, the cups are an opportunity to take advantage of some weakened opposition and perhaps achieve some silverware at the tail end of the season.

United have an excellent record against their Durban neighbours, having beaten them four times out of four in league exchanges over the past two seasons. But this afternoon could be a whole new ball game.

To begin with, Usuthu had an excellent finish to the season. After a dismally slow league start that saw AmaZulu in second-last at the halfway mark and Neil Tovey’s job as head coach under threat, the famous Durban team were resurgent in the second half of the season.

AmaZulu won eight, drew three and lost just four of their last 15 games. While Maritzburg’s top-eight challenge wilted with a 0-0 draw away to 10-man Free State Stars and 1-0 home defeat to Santos in their last two fixtures. AmaZulu finished with three impressive victories — 1-0 at home to Stars, 1-0 away to fourth-placed Santos and 3-0 at home to champions SuperSport United — to clinch ninth place.

Maritzburg United left midfielder Kurt Lentjies, arguably their strongest performer in the second half of the season on loan from Sundowns, conceded that this afternoon’s cup tie could be a tough fixture for his team, even with their excellent record against the hosts.

The intelligent, skilful midfielder said United have to go into the Telkom with the mindset of trying to win it.

“… If that’s not our ambition then we shouldn’t be in the cup. We need to be ready to give everything for 90 or even 120 minutes,” Lentjies said.

AmaZulu’s danger man up-front will be tall, forceful striker Ayanda Dlamini, who scored an impressive 10 goals in his first season in the PSL after joining Usuthu from the lower leagues.

The striker said: “Like any other team, we want to win this cup. We are going to take it one match at a time, but we want to win the competition.

“Maritzburg are a very good team and, being a KZN derby, it will be very tough …”

The hosts will be boosted by the return of defenders Warren Bishop and Kampamba Chintu. However, Marc van Heerden, Myrone Shongwe and Ntokozo Sikhakane are still sidelined.

United have been hit by an ankle injury to Fadlu Davids that will keep their star striker out until the first few weeks of next season.

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