Santos and Maritzburg United will kick off the sixth Telkom Knockout season with a last 16 soccer clash at Athlone Stadium on Friday evening, as the Premiership takes a back seat for the Cup that awards R4.25-million to the winners.
Both teams are coming off heavy league defeats last weekend, with Platinum Stars thrashing Santos 4-1 and Maritzburg’s bright start to the campaign dented by a crushing 7-0 loss to SuperSport United.
“It was a freak result,” said Maritzburg captain Fadlu Davids.
While Santos, who have been uncharacteristically erratic in the campaign, are hard to beat at home, Davids feels that his charges can bounce back to winning ways.
“The good thing about the Santos match is that it has come quickly after our previous match,” said Davids.
“It’s a different competition, so we have a perfect chance to bounce straight back.”
On Saturday afternoon, Bidvest Wits tackle Amazulu at Bidvest Stadium — a rematch of the 2009 Nedbank Cup that opened a newly revamped FNB Stadium ahead of the 2010 World Cup with Wits winning 3-0.
Both teams will aim for a quarterfinal berth, with Usuthu in search of a first success since winning this competition under a different sponsor in 1992.
“That victory in 2009 stays in our mind,” said Wits coach Roger De Sa.
“I believe we can qualify for the quarterfinals. We are well-prepared for this game and are hoping for the best.”
Orlando Pirates, who were runners up last year and won the MTN8 trophy earlier in the season, clash with Black Leopards at Orlando Stadium.
“We have more experience than them, something that I believe should give us the edge,” said Pirates captain Lucky Lekgwathi.
“They are an attack-minded team as well so it should be a good match to watch.”
At Dobsonville Stadium, a rejuvenated Moroka Swallows take on star-studded Mamelodi Sundowns in what could be the weekend’s most entertaining fixture.
Defending the title
On Sunday, champions Kaizer Chiefs begin their title defence away to Platinum Stars at Royal Bafokeng Stadium.
Both sides will enter the encounter after confidence boosting wins, with Chiefs fresh from a 2-0 win over Leopards last Sunday.
Chiefs are in search of a hat-trick of trophies having won the last two editions, with the win set to make it four Telkom Knockout crowns in the last five seasons for the Glamour Club.
Coach Owen da Gama’s Stars, though, carry an impressive record at home this season and won this competition in its first year back in 2006.
“Our aim is to defend the Telkom Knockout again this season even though we know that it will be tough playing Stars away,” said Chiefs defender Zhaimo Jambo.
At Athlone Stadium, Ajax Cape Town — who lifted this trophy in 2008 — host Free State Stars.
High-flying Premiership log leaders SuperSport take on Golden Arrows at Lucas Moripe Stadium on Tuesday evening.
The last of the first round ties is on Wednesday night with 2005 winners Jomo Cosmos at home to Bloemfontein Celtic at Sinaba Stadium. — Sapa