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Mamelodi Sundowns versus Stellenbosch headlines exciting Nedbank Cup semis weekend

Mamelodi Sundowns versus Stellenbosch headlines exciting Nedbank Cup semis weekend
Grant Kekana and Sphelele Mkhulise of Mamelodi Sundowns and Kgaogelo Sekgota of Stellenbosch FC at Lucas Moripe Stadium. 27 September 27, 2023. (Photo: Lefty Shivambu/Gallo Images)

Stellebosch’s 25-match unbeaten run will be on the line when they take on DStv Premiership champions Mamelodi Sundowns in the Nedbank Cup semifinals.

The worst-kept secret in South African soccer has been revealed. Mamelodi Sundowns are officially the 2023/2024 DStv Premiership champions.

Masandawana claimed a seventh league title on the spin after thrashing struggling heavyweights of yesteryear Kaizer Chiefs 5-1 on Thursday night in Johannesburg.

They extended their unbeaten streak in the Premiership to 48 games since September 2022 and 24 in the ongoing league campaign. This over and above winning the title with six games to spare.

There’s no time to celebrate for the serial South African champions though. They play Stellenbosch in the finals of the Nedbank Cup on Sunday afternoon.

A victory in that exciting tie will see Sundowns reach the final of the knockout competition for the third time in five seasons. Of course, if they manage this achievement, they will be confident of pushing all the way to lift the title, which would also be the Tshwane side’s third in five seasons in the Cup.

But first, they must conquer a Stellenbosch team that is currently second-best in the league, after the brilliant Brazilians.

Stellies — who have the advantage of playing at home in the crunch semifinal contest — will not be easy to navigate past. The Cape Winelands club is on an unbeaten streak of its own.

Steve Barker and his men are on a 25-match unbeaten streak, a run which includes them claiming their maiden major trophy in the South African top-flight when they clinched the Carling Knockout Cup in December 2023.

Coincidentally, the last team to defeat Stellenbosch was Sundowns. Masandawana beat the Maroons 3-1 in September 2023.

The only “blemish” in what has been an exceptional streak came when they lost to a combined Premiership team voted for by fans during an exhibition match that they were obligated to play following their success in the Knockout. They were defeated 2-1 by the All-Star team.

However, in official games, they have sailed smoothly. Even in stormy waters, Barker and his charges have circumvented the wild waves with the deftness of South African sailing sensation Kirsten Neuschäfer.

Were they to upset Sundowns — who remain the favourites to win the battle despite Stellies’ stellar season to date — it would be an extraordinary second final in a row this season for the Western Cape club. Especially considering that they’ve been in the premier division for just five seasons.

“We’ve just got to keep taking it one game at a time, though. We have to continually look to improve, in every training session and every match, and avoid any complacency,” said Barker of his team’s incredible season so far.

Evidence Makgopa of Orlando Pirates, Nedbank Cup

Evidence Makgopa of Orlando Pirates controls possession as Jaeden Rhodes of Cape Town City challenges at DHL Cape Town Stadium. (Photo: Shaun Roy/Gallo Images)

Buccaneers face Chippa

Preceding the Stellenbosch versus Sundowns humdinger will be Orlando Pirates’ clash with Chippa United. The former are the defending champions, while Chippa are looking to reach their second Nedbank Cup final in four seasons.

The teams have met on 22 previous occasions. In that period the Buccaneers have been dominant. They have won on 15 occasions. Chippa have claimed four victories, while three matches have concluded with draws.

Kwanele Kopo — who is the co-coach of Eastern Cape side Chippa — fancies his team’s chances against the Buccaneers, despite the fact the team has suffered back-to-back defeats recently, following a four-game winning run.

Elmo Kambindu of Chippa United, Nedbank Cup

Elmo Kambindu of Chippa United and Riaan Hanamub of AmaZulu FC at Moses Mabhida Stadium. 27 April 27 2024. (Photo: Darren Stewart/Gallo Images)

“We would like to get into the final of the Nedbank Cup. And we have to beat Pirates to do it. So, tactically, can we do it? Yes, I believe so,” stated Kopo.

“Do we have the players that are capable of going out there and competing against Pirates? Yes, I believe so.”

It will be easier said than done. Pirates are aiming for a second final this season, as well as a second consecutive Nedbank Cup decider.

The Sea Robbers have already defended their MTN8 title and are just two wins from retaining the Nedbank title as well. DM  

Nedbank Cup semifinals

Chippa United vs Orlando Pirates – Saturday, 4 May (3pm)

Stellenbosch vs Mamelodi Sundowns – Sunday, 5 May (3pm)

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