Arguably four of the best sides to watch in the league have conspired to meet each other in the last four of the Telkom Knockout. The tournament has been overshadowed by the massively popular MTN8 in recent years, and with top sides playing for big bucks, R8 million can be quite a distraction. A lot of these players played for Bafana Bafana earlier in the week however, and will be ready to rumble off the back of their excellent victory over the World Champions, Spain. Let’s get down to it…
SuperSport United vs Orlando Pirates | Saturday 23 November | Lucas Moripe Stadium | 15:00
To Win (90mins)
SuperSport United 17/10
Orlando Pirates 15/10
SuperSport United have been a consistently impressive side in front of goal in the league this season, and with the likes of Bennett Chenene and David Mathebula shining through from the midfield, it’s allowed club newcomer Mame Niang to flourish too. They’ve had a solid setup of fixtures and this has allowed them to build and structure their season around game-winning tactics. Even with their league pedigree in recent years, they’re still underestimated on a regular basis, especially by the big sides and often this allows them to slip under the radar. The Matsatsantsa locals always come out in numbers to faithfully support and it’s something the side relies on to build confidence during games. Their only real glitches so far have been losses to Stars and Swallows in the league, so they’ve held their own in the games they should be winning. As silly as that sounds, it’s a common trait that hampers many big sides, and something to take note of with SuperSport. Their task on Saturday won’t come lightly, in fact it’ll be a bulldozer-like onslaught from a continent-conquering army of Sea Robbers.
Orlando Pirates have a squad of players who’ll be flying high after recent success. Their exploits in the CAF Champions League were admirable to say the least, and they were beaten in the finals by worthy winners. Stand-out performance by key players when the heat was on was great to watch, and it showed character from a side usually surrounded by teams in a league where they’re feared before the games even start. Punching above your weight game after game and showing up continental dominators when you’re the underdog can only be a good thing in the long run for the club. To puff some egos up even more, players like Andile Jali and Oupa Manyisa shone for Bafana in midweek. They certainly are the side that the rest of the South African clubs have their focus on. Bucs’ major concern going into this is ensuring they have full focus on what’s at stake, and will be a massive test of Roger De Sa’s ability to rally his troops on an ongoing basis. The likelihood is that Kermit Erasmus will miss the game on Saturday, and this means the weight upfront will fall on Lennox Bacela. There is also talk of Jali missing out, but this will be one player the management will do anything for to get him match fit.
VERDICT: SuperSport United 17/10
The last time these two teams met was also during cup competition back in August, where Pirates bundled SuperSport out of the MTN8 on penalties. Although this is just one fixture, it highlights the tight affair in store. Head-to-head there is almost nothing separating these teams, with the only notable stat worth mentioning being the away side’s form historically. Pirates have picked up more wins when they’ve met in Pretoria, whilst in Orlando the results are split down the middle. It shows that these sides always travel with intent, and it’s up to the host to ward of the invasion. This fixture is no different, and Pirates will be SuperSport’s ultimate test. At the end of it there has to be a winner, and for my liking, against the belief of many, SuperSport seem to be the objective way to go. They look more settled locally, and I believe they can take advantage of a Pirates side that may turn up complacent on the day. As much as my heart disagrees, a home win after a titanic 90, or even 120 minutes with penalties, is where I’d call this one.
Kaizer Chiefs vs Platinum Stars | Saturday 23 November | FNB Stadium | 20:15
To Win (90mins)
Kaizer Chiefs 7/10
Platinum Stars 37/10
Once again, here are two sides we can go on about all day. Kaizer Chiefs have been their bullish selves for most of the season so far. As with the majority of PSL-winning teams, there have been obvious glitches in their form that will look out of sorts. Their most recent, against Ajax, will be one to swiftly move on from, and Chiefs have a good habit of bouncing back strong. The fact that their squad is filled to the brim with quality means an off-form star can easily be replaced by an equally able substitute. On an international front, the Bafana squad is well represented by AmaKhosi players and this gives their A-list players even more time to gel. Bernard Parker has been nothing short of sensational, and his almost unstoppable form has Chiefs fans chanting, “He scores when he wants”. Besides the well-supported ‘Shabba’, Tsepo Masilela for me has been key, and his attacking strength from deep in play puts his frontmen into goal scoring positions on a more than regular basis. They’re a force to be reckoned with, and their army of supporters make them virtually indestructible at home.
Platinum Stars share a similar strength at home, and this has seen them build a solid basis to both league and cup runs. Their biggest accolade thus far was a triumph after penalties over Pirates in the MTN8 Final. They’re unbeaten so far this season, barring games against Swallows, and more notable, their opponents on Saturday. The biggest asset that Dikwena own is their ability to rely on more than just their frontmen to hit the back of the net. From Robert Ngambi in midfield through to reliable attacking sources like Botes, Ngele and Mthembu, they seem to have a united force, intent on scoring. They do sometimes tend to leak unnecessarily at the back, and this often costs them points in the league. On their day, Stars can send wave after wave at their opponents, and they’ll need to bring that style of play if they are to dent the Chiefs’ armour. Allan Freese would’ve loved to have this fixture in the North West, but with the possibility of another cup final just a win away, he’ll do his utmost to assert his charges before they head into battle.
VERDICT: Kaizer Chiefs 7/10
In years gone by, Chiefs have generally come out on top in this fixture, and despite the likelihood of this being an end-to-end affair, the tale of these two seem to only have one ending. You can never completely write off Dikwena, but this seems a huge mountain to climb. They’ve had the taste of cup victory already, and this may spur them on to come out trumps, but the bookies and I will agree that their opponents look to be too much for them this time round. Nothing would make me happier than seeing an upset at the FNB Stadium, but an unbiased look at this would suggest otherwise. Chiefs won’t pay generously for a win, but in a cup game where there can be only one, it has to be the way to go.