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Battle of the underdogs: Chippa United and Tshakhuma eye Nedbank Cup glory

Battle of the underdogs: Chippa United and Tshakhuma eye Nedbank Cup glory
Tshakhuma Tsha Madzivhandila players celebrates a victory during the 2021 Nedbank Cup semifinal match between Mamelodi Sundowns and Tshakhuma Tsha Madzivhandila at Loftus Versfeld Stadium, Pretoria, on 18 April 2021. (Photo:Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix)

History beckons for either Chippa United or Tshakhuma Tsha Madzivhandila as a couple of hours on the pitch this Saturday will hand one of the relegation-threatened sides their first top-flight trophy. 

The Nedbank Cup is famed for being a competition where every team can dream of going all the way and claiming a top-flight trophy. The 2021 edition has proven to be a perfect example of this, with two underdogs set to fight it out for the ultimate prize.

Chippa United and Tshakhuma Tsha Madzivhandila (TTM) are both in the final of this competition for the first time. Both sides are also in a relegation scrap in the DStv Premiership, and victory in the final could be the boost one of them needs to propel themselves away from the relegation zone. 

As Chippa head coach Vladislav Heric pointed out while speaking in the build-up to the game, “We are trying to keep the players focused on the things we are trying to achieve together, which is the cup final now, and after that… in our remaining league matches.”

“We told the players what mental approach they must have, and we told them all the matches are cup finals now. The fighting spirit and right mentality will be vital for us.”

As for TTM, being in a cup final in their debut season in the contest is something they would not have imagined at the beginning of the campaign. 

Now that they are there, they will seek to push all the way through. More especially after claiming the scalp of the defending champions, Mamelodi Sundowns in the semi-finals

The DStv Premiership rookies’ form since that shock win on penalties has been topsy-turvy. They have won two, including an impressive win over Kaizer Chiefs in their last fixture, and lost two.

“It is a cup final, so league form goes out the window. The players are excited and wanting to impress. This week we have had training sessions with no injuries, which is almost unheard of. It’s an important game for the club and players, it could be the one and only chance for these players to reach a cup final. Our opponents have got a couple of good results behind them and have a new coach [in Heric],” TTM coach Dylan Kerr told SuperSport.

Chippa’s recent form is marginally superior to TTM, with them winning two, drawing and losing one in their recent four outings. They also claimed maximum points off Chiefs in that run.

On the DStv Premiership, a mere point separates 14th-placed TTM from 15th-placed Chippa. Both sides also boast experienced players within their ranks, whose contribution will be crucial on Saturday evening. 

Chippa will be pinning their hopes on 36-year-old Kurt Lentjies, who has been a regular contributor to their cause this season. Cameroonian Bienvenu Eva Nga will also be key, having scored six goals in all competitions this season. 

For TTM, Thabo Rakhale, Joseph Malongoane, Thabo Mnyamane will be key figures in the final. Goalkeeper Washington Arubi, who had a blinder in the semi-finals against Masandawana, will also be an important figure. Especially if the game heads to penalties. 

“We expect a tough game, like every final. The cup final is a 50-50 game and it will be very tough. It might not be attractive football [that we play] because everyone wants to win,” Heric said.

The winner will walk away with R7-million, which will boost the finances of either club significantly. More especially if the side that goes on to win, also ends up falling down to the GladAfrica Championship. 

The game is set to kick off at 6pm, and will be played behind closed doors at Free State Stadium in Bloemfontein. DM

 

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