Tovey eyes African Cup

The chance of taking AmaZulu to play in the African Confederations Cup is the motivation driving Usuthu head coach Neil Tovey, to lift the Nedbank Cup when they face BidVest Wits in the final at Soccer City on Saturday. Kick-off is at 3pm.

The Cup final will be the first match to be played at the new multi-billion rand stadium, which will be used for the opening and closing matches in next month’s Soccer World Cup finals.

Despite the fact that both finalists are not regarded as one of the “powerhouses” of the Absa Premiership, organisers said over 70 000 tickets had been sold.

This means it will be the biggest crowd any of the players have ever played in front of and that could be intimidating for the lesser experienced players.

As the 2010 Local Organising Committee are using the final to test the venue ahead of the World Cup, only 80 000 tickets will be sold. The new stadium has a capacity of 94 000 which is already sold out for Bafana Bafana’s opening World Cup match against Mexico on June 11.

Said Tovey, a former Bafana captain who helped South Africa to glory in the African Nations Cup at the old Soccer City in 1996: “It is fantastic to be part of all the hype, but it would be even better if AmaZulu should for the first time qualify for the Confederations Cup in 2011.”

The winner, as well as qualifying for the Confederations Cup, will go home R6-million richer.
The loser takes home R2,5-million. 

Tovey will be minus his three suspended players, defenders Marc van Heerden, Warren Bishop and midfielder Thabo Mabaso.

The Students are better off with four of their five suspended players, captain Tefu Mashamaite, Patrick Phungwayo, Houston Hills and Calvin Kadi, returning from suspension. The only Wits player missing is playmaker Thando Mngomeni who is still suspended.

AmaZulu’s twin strikers, Dumisani Ngwenya and Ayanda Dlamini, will play key roles while the Clever Boys got another boost this week with the return to fitness of goal scoring midfielder Mark Haskins, who had been suffering with a back injury and came off the bench in last week’s semifinal against Free State Stars to score two late goals to guide Wits to a 3-1 win.

Wits coach Roger de Sa, said AmaZulu should start as slight favourites after beating the big spending Mamelodi Sundowns in the semifinals, but Tovey is not buying that.

“Form goes out of the window in a Cup final. There are no favourites in this match and honours will go the team who on the day should want it more. I just hope my team will show up and win it.”

De Sa’s Students have had an easier road to the final, only meeting one PSL club in Free State Stars. All their other opponents came from the National First Division.

Said De Sa: “Sure we have had an easier run-in, and that gives AmaZulu the edge. I do not have a problem with that. But it will be close.

“There was little to choose between the teams in the league. AmaZulu finished ninth and we ended 10th. We have not won a cup in 15 years and they have gone 18 years without a trophy, so there is nothing in it.

“But I am quietly confident and believe my boys will rise to the occasion.”

After a slow start to the league campaign, Usuthu have come good reaching the semifinals of the MTN8 and Telkom Knockout competitions this season.

Said Tovey: “I have always had faith and belief in my players. I never doubted for a minute we could get to the final—even when we drew Sundowns in the semifinals.

“We have performed well in this cup and determined to end the season with a real big bang.”—Sapa

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