MTN8 season to star the best and the hopeful

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The MTN8, which is the Premier Soccer League’s first cup competition of the season, will kick off with newborn Cape Town City FC taking on Kaizer Chiefs at Cape Town Stadium on Friday, August 26.

The match will kick off at the iconic and picturesque 2010 Fifa World Cup venue below Table Mountain at 8pm.

Three other quarterfinal matches – featuring clubs which finished within the top eight bracket last season – will be played on the same weekend.

The other matches, on the following day, will feature Platinum Stars against Chippa United in a 3pm kickoff at Royal Bafokeng Sports Palace; and Bidvest Wits, who finished third last season, will host Orlando Pirates at the Bidvest Stadium at 8.15pm.

The last match of the quarterfinals will see league champions Mamelodi Sundowns entertain neighbours SuperSport United at the traditional rugby venue, Loftus Versfeld, on Sunday, August 28.

This battle royal for Tshwane dominance will start at 3pm.

The final will take place on October 1, with semifinals pencilled in for September 10 and September 17, as this round has two legs.

City vs Chiefs will once more square off two of South Africa’s emerging coaches, Eric Tinkler and Steve Komphela.

The two squared off against each other several times last season while the former Bafana Bafana midfielder, Tinkler, was still guiding Pirates’ fortunes and the erstwhile national team skipper sat in the Amakhosi dugout.

Tinkler has since joined City which bought the Mpumalanga Black Aces status, bringing PSL executive committee member John Comitis back into the fold.

Comitis was the Ajax Cape Town boss before an acrimonious fall-out with new owners, the Efstathiou family.

The fixture will give the two sides very little time for preparation as they will have opened their Absa Premiership campaign a mere three days earlier, with Chiefs visiting Wits at their Bidvest Stadium while City will be home to Polokwane City at the Cape Town Stadium. Both matches have a 7.30pm kickoff time.

Chiefs will be aiming at atoning for last season’s 1-0 loss at the hands of City’s neighbours Ajax Cape Town in the final.

The Naturena side might also feel they have a slight advantage, given that they have already had a chance to brush off the cobwebs in the Carling Black Label Cup against the Buccaneers, and also played some of their home matches at the Cape Town venue last season. Pirates, on the other hand, should start the season like wounded lions, given that they went through a barren season last time around.

This is considered an anomaly and unacceptable by the Ghost – those who swear by the skull and crossbones as well as the black and white. Oh! By the way, add red to that.

To make it even more hurtful, this dry season came after back-to-back trebles not so long ago, much as that now seems like a distant past.

Given this, Muhsin Ertugral, the veteran that he is in matters concerning the changing room and the dugout, needs no reminder what a humongus task he has on his hands.

Suffice to say Gavin Hunt and his charges should brace themselves for both whiplash and a backlash from a side which is expected to be in swashbuckling mode through this season.

Don’t discount Sundowns, who are on a mission to continue their dominance.

And what a feat it would be if they could sweep the tables, something that has not happened in a long time in South African football.

The fact that they have had no off season, having taken part in the CAF Champions League, could be to their advantage, as their players are likely to be more match-fit than most of their peers.

But as has so often been the case in cup competitions, pundits and opponents alike would rule out the likes of SuperSport, Platinum Stars, Wits and City at their own peril.

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