Kaitano Tembo has the chance to add to SuperSport United’s rich cup history with his first trophy as coach when they face Owen Da Gama’s Highlands Park, who will be looking to make history of their own in the MTN8 final on Saturday. SoccerClub writer DEAN WORKMAN highlights four talking points ahead of the clash.
SuperSport will compete in their third straight MTN8 final on Saturday, after they beat Cape Town City to win the trophy under Eric Tinkler in the 2017-18 season before Tembo saw his side fall at the final hurdle last season as they again faced The Citizens.
Matsatsantsa come into the game as many people’s favourites after they smashed Bidvest Wits 3-0 in the quarters, and then defeated Absa Premiership champions Mamelodi Sundowns 3-1 over their two-legged semi-final.
Their opponents, Highlands Park, however, have enjoyed a dramatic rise over the last two years.
The Lions of the North were relegated from the Absa Premiership in the 2016-17 season, but the arrival of Da Gama changed the club’s fortunes as he guided them to the NFD title in record fashion as they bounced straight back into South Africa’s top flight.
Their rise did not stop there as Highlands finished seventh last season, two spots above Kaizer Chiefs, to book a spot in this season’s top-eight competition, where they have knocked out Orlando Pirates with a 1-0 win in the quarters before overcoming Polokwane City in the semi-finals to set a historic date with SuperSport.
SoccerClub has picked out four talking points ahead of the clash:
Tembo’s chance at redemption
Kaitano Tembo has worked his way up from the @SuperSportFC youth structures and is now going into a second cup final as head coach of the first team. He describes what it would mean for him to win the #MTN8. #wafawafa pic.twitter.com/NvrTMetPHi
— MTN8 Wafa Wafa! (@MTN8) October 4, 2019
After last season’s heartbreak against Benni McCarthy’s City, the Zimbabwean coach who came through the ranks at SuperSport – first as a player then as a youth coach before becoming the first team assistant and eventually head coach – will have the opportunity to win his first piece of silverware after almost a year and a half in charge.
Tembo, who initially stepped in to replace Eric Tinkler as caretaker coach, has helped to bring continuity to the club after the relatively short stays of Stuart Baxter and Eric Tinkler and winning a trophy would be a by-product of his team’s progress.
Gabuza proving a point
Thamsanqa Gabuza: “I didn’t come here to prove a point to anyone. I came here to do a job. All I’m doing is listening to the coach’s instructions and implementing them on the field..” pic.twitter.com/oqrt7qKEHQ
— Official PSL (@OfficialPSL) September 30, 2019
After six years at Orlando Pirates, the big striker made the move to Matsatsantsa in the search of regular game time and a bit of love after a tumultuous few seasons with the Pirates fans.
Gabuza scored just 11 goals in 96 appearances for Pirates but has hit the ground running with Tembo’s team scoring four goals in 10 appearances, with three of those coming in the MTN8.
The former Platinum Stars striker has the opportunity to lift silverware on Saturday, while things are not going so well for his former employers.
Highlands embracing underdogs tag
“Someone’s name is on that cup and what’s meant to be is meant to be.”
— MTN8 Wafa Wafa! (@MTN8) October 3, 2019
Da Gama admitted in the pre-match media conference his side know that SuperSport United are the favourites but insisted his charges will show no fear.
With all the pressure seemingly on SuperSport, the Lions of the North may just have the perfect opportunity to write their names in the history books.
Johannesburg finally hosts a final
— Mahlatse Mphahlele (@BraMahlatse) October 3, 2019
Mzansi’s football lovers will finally get to see a domestic cup final held in the City of Gold.
The last time a final took place here was the 2014 Telkom Knockout final when SuperSport United beat Platinum Stars 3-2 at the Orlando Stadium.
Almost five years later and the spiritual home of South African football, the Orlando Stadium in Soweto, will yet again host a cup final.
The final may not be featuring one of the ‘traditional’ big clubs but if the city is going to host finals moving forwards, the fans will need to fill up Orlando.
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