Nedbank Cup: Who will have the greater impact?

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Nedbank Cup final: SuperSport United v Orlando Pirates, Peter Mokaba Stadium, Polokwane, 3pm

Thabo Matlaba

Orlando Pirates

It’s not just Matlaba’s speed that makes him a dangerous player but also how he is able to accelerate with the ball at his feet.One of the many times he combined those skills to devastating effect was against Bidvest Wits in the first leg of the 2014 MTN8 semi-final.

It took him just 10 seconds to move from his 18-yard area to the Wits box with the ball at his feet, finishing a swift counter-attack with a stunning goal.His speed is his greatest weapon, helping him cement a place in the national team and the Buccaneers’ starting XI, where he has been handed the armband in the absence of Oupa Manyisa and Happy Jele.

“It’s about training, even now at 4pm I am going for a run to keep fit,” Matlaba said this week.”I never did athletics as a kid but I always loved running. I train a lot to get better at it. I ran from Monday to Wednesday this week because we have a game on Saturday.

That’s what I normally do when we have a game on the weekend and there is nothing in between to complement the work I do with the team. I run on the road, not at the gym. I don’t like the gym, I hate it. I only do it when I have to.

”The clothes I wear make it possible for me to run in peace without being noticed by anyone because I know fans would stop me.”My speed has helped me a lot. If I didn’t have it, I don’t think I would have reached this level.”

Coach Eric Tinkler will be banking on that speed from Matlaba to not only stop the likes of SuperSport’s Thuso Phala and Dove Wome on Saturday, but also start the Buccaneers’ counter-attacks.

There is a lot at stake for both teams, who are looking to end a disappointing season on a high by winning the premier knockout competition and book a place in next year’s CAF Confederation Cup in the process.

It will be a fight between Pirates’ skills from the likes of Thabo Rakhale and Mpho Makola against tireless grafters in Michael Morton and Dean Furman at the heart of the Matsatsantsa a Pitori midfield.It might take a moment of brilliance to separate the teams even though they were cautious in their league clash last week, fighting for a place in the top eight.

And still, it produced four goals.It’s good that Tinkler has Matlaba, who, apart from being lightning quick, is renowned for his moments of brilliance that come in the form of thunderbolts from distance.

But those have been rare, just like consistency from the Buccaneers. They have come only in the Nedbank Cup, where they got past Kaizer Chiefs, Jomo Cosmos, Mamelodi Sundowns and Free State Stars to reach the final.

”This has been one of the worst seasons we have had as Orlando Pirates,” Matlaba said.”We didn’t start the season well, we had an objective to finish third and that didn’t happen. “Now we have an opportunity to finish this season with silverware.”It’s also important for the coach, too, because since he took over the head coach position, he hasn’t won anything. It would be important to win this for him.”

Jeremy Brockie

SuperSport United

Brockie will be sporting a new pair of boots this afternoon. He probably doused his last pair with a fire extinguisher to cool them off from his blazing hot feet which have blasted shots that left many goalkeepers stranded.

One of those goals came against Buccaneers at the venue where they’re meeting today when Matsatsantsa a Pitori eliminated them in last year’s Nedbank Cup.

David Mathebula, with his GPS-encoded foot, found the New Zealand-born forward, who managed to run behind the Buccaneers defenders and unleashed a gravity-defying volley that curled into the back of the net. “It was a pretty sweet strike and it took us to the next round of the Nedbank Cup,” Brockie said.

”If I can’t replicate that goal, hopefully we can replicate the score to end the season with some silverware and finish on a high.”Matsatsantsa started the season with a lot of promise, and a good squad led by Gordon Igesund, who has four league titles with four different teams.

But that didn’t translate to success as they had to fight to finish in the top eight. Igesund was replaced by Stuart Baxter in January.The Nedbank Cup is an opportunity to finish with a trophy.

They have shown fighting spirit, coming from behind against Mpumalanga Black Aces and University of Pretoria to win those matches at the death.

“Those types of results, you find out who the real characters in the side are,” Brockie said.”When you can come from behind, in a pressured situation in a one-off game, it really builds confidence and brings the boys together. That’s something Stuart has brought to the team, to get that enjoyment and freedom but with structure.

”Even though Brockie has scored 17 goals for United in all competitions, it has been a somewhat underwhelming return for a forward who was tipped to fight for the Lesley Manyathela Golden Boot.He finished three goals behind Collins Mbesuma. He has a chance to make up for that by leading Matsatsantsa to glory in his first cup final in his professional career.

After that, he will travel to Papua New Guinea to meet up with his New Zealand teammates in the Oceania Nations Cup to take on Vanuatu on Tuesday missing out on the opening game against Fiji on Saturday.

He will be looking to improve his dismal return of just one goal in 47 games. “It’s a massive confidence booster to be back in the national team,” Brockie said.”I missed out on the last couple of games.

Hopefully I can end the season on a high here and then go into the national team full of confidence and replicate the goal-scoring form I managed here in the second half of the season.

”We have a new coach (Anthony Hudson) who has been with the team for about 18 months. I played as a striker, which is my preferred position, under him. During the previous coach's (Ricki Herbert) reign, I played more as a wing-back in a very defensive formation. I even played at left-back. It doesn’t look like a good record, which is why I want to change it.

Saturday Star

Original source: Nedbank Cup: Who will have the greater impact?

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