Port Elizabeth hosts its first final in some 40 years when Ajax Cape Town and Mamelodi Sundowns decide the destiny of the last of the season’s silverware on Saturday.
The Nedbank Cup final holds the prospect of an exciting clash between two expansive sides, both prepared to attack and both vulnerable at the back. It should be a match well worth watching in front of a decent crowd at a magnificent arena – just the way to sign off the season.
Ajax have come a long way since this time last year when they were battling to stave off potential relegation. Now a fifth place finish in the league, and a cup final place, represent a recovery beyond their wildest imagination.
Sundowns have a chance to take a trophy after finishing second in the league and reaching the semifinals of the Telkom Knockout. It would be disaster for coach Pitso Mosimane to end this campaign empty-handed after all the profligate spending of the past two years.
Embraced the game
The game also ends a fairy-tale spell in South Africa for Dutch defender Alje Schut, who embraced the game in the country like no other foreigner in recent times. He was enthusiastic, deferential, complimentary and competitive and made for an unlikely leader at a club filled with local footballing bling.
At 34 years, he goes back to the Netherlands in search of coaching badges and a new challenge.
But although he leaves with the applause of South Africans ringing in his ears, it must be remembered his presence in the Sundowns squad gave them an unfair and unsporting advantage in a sneaky ruse that went contrary to the principles of sporting decency.
Schut was registered from the start of his time in South Africa as a local, without the usual five-year waiting period before residency is granted.
Instead, Sundowns found a loophole in work permit regulations to get him a visa reserved for wealthy foreigners with high net assets to invest. In Schut’s case, it was the value of his pension scheme in the Netherlands, none of which actually ever came into the country.
Rules allow each PSL club five foreigners a season. Schut being counted as a local meant Sundowns in effect had six, something they were smugly boastful of.