DONDOL VS GOLIATH
Orlando Pirates wary of wily minnows Dondol Stars in Nedbank Cup quarterfinals
As the Cup nears its business end — the Stars remain the sole non-Premiership side in the competition. They face Pirates, a team that has won the cup on a number of occasions.
The Nedbank Cup is always a platform for the minnows of South African soccer to shine, as well as an opportunity for the staff at the clubs to show off their talent and skill. All in the hope of ascending to bigger and better opportunities.
The latest contingent to take a bash at this is Gauteng-based ABC Motsepe side Dondol Stars. The Mamelodi outfit is in the quarterfinals and is set to face eight-time winners of the annual national royal rumble, Orlando Pirates, on Saturday afternoon.
Also in the last eight are defending champions Mamelodi Sundowns, who face fellow DStv Premiership side Stellenbosch. On Sunday, the two remaining quarterfinals will be played. Both will be clashes between teams in the top flight.
First off, it will be Chippa United against Sekhukhune United at 3pm. Then three hours later — record Nedbank Cup champions Kaizer Chiefs will be looking to take a step further to ending their eight-year trophy drought by beating bogey side Royal AM.
Reaching for the stars
Dondol are having an excellent 2022/2023 season. In the Gauteng stream of the South African Football-run ABC Motsepe, the Tshwane-based outfit is perched at the summit and is a comfortable nine points clear of second-placed Soweto Super United.
They have lost just three of the 33 league matches played to date — winning 22. The team has brought that form into the Nedbank Cup by ousting two top-flight teams in SuperSport United and AmaZulu. Now they have Pirates on their radar.
“We are very excited to still be part of the competition. Excited to reach this level… We are still the same Dondol that we were in the round of 32 of the Nedbank Cup. We are still that little team from the third tier of South African soccer. And we are still humble and willing to learn from Orlando Pirates,” Stars coach Vincent Ramoni told journalists in a press conference ahead of the match.
According to the team’s skipper Bafana Makhanya — though cognisant of the Sea Robbers’ quality and stature — the Dondol players are excited to carry on waving the flag for the underdogs. The club is the sole non-Premiership representative remaining in the cup competition.
“The mood is high. Everyone wants to beat Pirates. When you play such a team, you don’t need motivation from the coaches or family members. The game is motivation itself,” Makhanya shared.
Pirates won’t be in a friendly mood against the side from the lower divisions. They are chasing overall victory in this particular competition for the first time since 2014.
They reached consecutive finals in 2016 and 2017, but were vanquished by SuperSport in both encounters. They are desperate to add another domestic trophy this campaign, to add to the MTN8 trophy they won at the beginning of the season.
If they manage to bag the Nedbank Cup, as well as finishing second behind league champions Sundowns — it will be a relatively good season for the Buccaneers. But first, they have a David to contend with.
In the previous round, the Soweto side laboured past Motsepe Foundation Championship side Venda Football Academy. It took an extra-time strike by Thembinkosi Lorch to break the resistance of the second-tier side.
Hence Pirates’ mentor José Riveiro is wary of Dondol’s potential threat.
“We know it’s going to be complicated. We have experience already in the Nedbank Cup to deal with teams from lower leagues… We are not thinking much about the division Dondol are playing in,” Riveiro told journalists.
“We need to show from the beginning that we are not going to allow them to play. But games are complicated. I’m sure there are going to be moments for both teams.”
Escape the desert
Also desperate for Nedbank Cup glory are Kaizer Chiefs. The Naturena-based side — who are 13-time winners of the trophy — last won any kind of important silverware back in 2015.
This competition is their final opportunity to end that drought this season. They missed out on the MTN8, as they did on the league. Though they were never really in contention in the latter, owing to Masandawana’s dominance.
“We are the ones who can change this. We are the ones who are playing and we are trying our level best, so that we can get to the final and win the Nedbank Cup. To put the club back where it belongs. The commitment, the fight and the desire are there for us to go all the way,” said Amakhosi starlet Mduduzi Shabalala. DM
Nedbank Cup fixtures
Saturday, 15 April:
Dondol Stars vs Orlando Pirates (3pm)
Stellenbosch vs Mamelodi Sundowns (6pm)
Sunday, 16 April:
Chippa United vs Sekhukhune United (3pm)
Royal AM vs Kaizer Chiefs (6pm)