South Africa’s so-called big three teams have all been eliminated from the annual MTN8 competition, a clear sign of the changing face of domestic football where nothing can be taken for granted anymore.
Kaizer Chiefs were eliminated by SuperSport United, and Mamelodi Sundowns succumbed to lightweights Maritzburg United. Orlando Pirates failed to even make the cut, finishing the season in a dismal 11th position.
“Maritzburg played better,” said vanquished Sundowns coach Pitso Mosimane, whose team could not cope with the hard-tackling, hard-running “team of choice” who never stopped chasing on the day.
“They wanted it more than us and they deserved their victory. It’s okay; that’s the beauty about domestic football. You can no longer come to the ground with the mistaken belief that your reputation guarantees you success,” Mosimane said.
“You have to work hard every day and at Sundowns we often find it difficult to break down these so-called small teams. They are always inspired to work extra hard against us but it’s okay — we will bounce back. But it is good for South African football.”
Maritzburg is at home to SuperSport United on Saturday and will visit Matsatsantsa a Pitori in the second-leg match in a fortnight. But they know they have to redouble their efforts if they hope to defeat SuperSport United.
Interestingly, it was discarded Siyanda Xulu, who hardly featured for Chiefs under Steve Komphela, who proved a commanding presence for Maritzburg under Fadlu Davids. The KwaZulu-Natal team will be looking for a repeat of the performance he put in against Downs.
But all eyes will be focused on Cape Town Stadium, where Wits line up against Cape Town City on Sunday. The two coaches might be singing the Staple Singers’ famous ditty Let’s Do It Again after their last rough-and-tumble encounter.
Wits, led by the shrewd Gavin Hunt, who gave Benni McCarthy his first break in professional football in 1997, was left with a bloody nose by his student after a 1-0 beating in last week’s smash-and-grab affair.
“It was not the prettiest of performances,” admitted McCarthy at the end of the match.
“The pitch was not conducive to good football but the three points I would welcome any time,” added the City coach, who is aware that they will be facing a wounded Wits and there could be a huge price to pay.
Lehlohonolo Majoro has taken up the scoring responsibilities for City and, with captain Lebo Manyama at his best, this should guarantee another no-holds-barred encounter between two teams capable of delivering a knockout punch.
Rest assured that Hunt hates losing and fans can expect the Students to throw the book at the Citizens in what should turn out to be a high-octane game on Sunday.