While Orlando Pirates were the focal point this week, after signing Bafana Bafana’s all-time top scorer Benni McCarthy, Santos have been quietly preparing for their MTN8 quarterfinal clash against the Soweto side, set for Orlando Stadium on Saturday evening.
Whether McCarthy, the prodigal son of the South Africa soccer, will make his highly-anticipated return to local football against Santos, after 13 years abroad, will be kept under wraps until the weekend.
Hard-working Santos will be out to cause a major upset away to the competition’s defending champions.
“Pirates away from home is always a challenge for any team, but our confidence is high,” said Santos coach Boebie Solomons this week.
“We have worked on quite a number of aspects where were lacking last season, especially the attacking side, and I think it will all go very well.”
Like a Trojan, the Cape side know how to withstand their opponents’ attacks before striking on the counterattack — a ploy which is characteristic of the People’s Team.
“They [Santos] are very disciplined and play well under instructions,” said Pirates winger Daine Klate.
“I remember that I scored against them in my first Pirates game last season in the same cup match.
“What will be important is that we control the game if we are to win in our first game at home for the season, regardless of whether I score again or not.”
Pirates will be without suspended defender Rooi Mahamutsa, serving a one-match ban after picking up a third yellow card in the final match last season.
The match will kick-off at 8.15 pm.
On Saturday afternoon, Mamelodi Sundowns host Bloemfontein Celtic at Lucas Moripe Stadium in Atteridgeville in the third MTN8 quarterfinal.
Sundowns’ new coach Johan Neeskens will be sitting on the bench for the first time while his Celtic counterpart Clinton Larsen emerged as the country’s brightest coaching prospect last season.
Larsen was confident his enthusiastic squad would provide a challenge to the Brazilians’ big-name players who have under-achieved in recent years.
“I think we’ll be competitive against them,” said Larsen.
“Everybody knows that whoever Sundowns put on the field, and in their starting eleven, will be quality but I’d like to think they’ll have all the pressure with their big name players and our underdog tag so to speak.”
The match starts at 3pm.
At FNB Stadium on Sunday afternoon, Kaizer Chiefs face a potentially tricky encounter against plucky Bidvest Wits in the last of the four quarterfinals.
Wits midfielder Stanton Fredericks was well aware of the hype surrounding Amakhosi, his former team, in knock-out tournaments.
“Playing against Chiefs is always a big occasion,” said Fredericks.
“We are not in this competition to simply make up the numbers, we want to be competitive.
He said the Clever Boys were aiming at winning the trophy and bolstering their coffers with the R8-million prize money on offer.
“This is actually a good opportunity to salvage some silverware if we win the four matches of this cup.”
The match kicks off at 3pm. — Sapa