A clash of knockout kings as Sundowns face Chiefs

Steve Komphela needs to win to ease the constant pressure from Amakhosi fans
PHOTO: Muzi Ntombela / BackpagePix
Steve Komphela needs to win to ease the constant pressure from Amakhosi fans PHOTO: Muzi Ntombela / BackpagePix

Wednesday’s titanic battle between two South African football giants – Mamelodi Sundowns and Kaizer Chiefs – in the Telkom Knockout final will remind many of the origins of this public holiday.

Before being re-baptised Reconciliation Day in 1994, this date was originally Dingane’s Day because of the bloody battle between Zulu King Dingane’s warriors and the Boers in 1838.

But the reconciliation between Pitso Mosimane and Steve Komphela will happen only after the final whistle.

Durban’s Moses Mabhida Stadium will be the battlefield as the two friends will become foes for 90 minutes.

This may not quite be the Battle of Blood River, but the stakes are still high, as Mosimane and Komphela’s teams fight it out for R4.25 million in prize money.

There surely won’t be much charity on the pitch on Wednesday.

This is Komphela’s second cup final in as many competitions since joining Amakhosi at the beginning of the season and, despite now reaching two cup finals, he is yet to win the hearts of the Chiefs faithful.

There are still those who doubt Komphela’s credentials, as he has not yet lifted a trophy as a coach.

He lost the MTN8 final to Ajax Cape Town three months ago but has a chance to redeem himself now.

A victory for Komphela will go a long way towards easing the pressure of managing a team of Chiefs’ calibre.

Wednesday may be a great opportunity, but coming up against a Sundowns side unbeaten in 10 matches in all competitions makes this assignment even harder than the last final he lost.

By comparison, after a sluggish start to the season, Mosimane has managed to silence the fickle Sundowns supporters, who were calling for his head not so long ago.

Sundowns have scored 11 goals on their way to this final, beating Chippa United 2-0 in the opening round and demolishing Free State Stars 6-1 in the quarterfinals.

They recorded a 3-1 victory over neighbours SuperSport United in the Tshwane Derby in the semifinals.

Chiefs, on the other hand, needed a penalty shoot-out to oust Orlando Pirates in their semifinal.

Before then, they narrowly beat Mpumalanga Black Aces 2-1 and former champions Platinum Stars 3-0.

Sundowns have been boosted by the return to training of Khama Billiat, who has recovered from a concussion suffered in the team’s last game, against Free State Stars.

Mosimane will be holding thumbs that the sensational Keagan Dolly will return from the CAF
Under-23 Africa Cup of Nations in Senegal with a clean bill of health.

Dolly has been a revelation since joining the Brazilians at the beginning of the season and has been instrumental in Downs’ good run.

The national team only arrives home tomorrow from Senegal.

Chiefs will be without talismanic goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune, who is on his way to recovery after undergoing surgery last month on a torn meniscus.

Kickoff is at 6pm.

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