Durban’s Moses Mabhida Stadium is the stage for the eagerly-anticipated Nedbank Cup semi-final showdown between Kaizer Chiefs and Free State Stars on Saturday night, 8:15pm.
Chiefs earned their spot in the semis with wins over Golden Arrows, Stellenbosch FC and Baroka FC, while Ea Lla Koto booked their place after beating Super Eagles, Chippa United and Ubuntu CT.
There was little to separate the teams a few weeks back when Amakhosi grabbed a 1-0 league win in Bethlehem, a 94th minute strike from Teenage Hadebe the difference.
And there’s been little between the teams overall this season – the Soweto giants are fourth on the league table with 42 points, Stars just one place and three points back.
For Chiefs coach Steve Komphela, it’s chance to get closer to bringing home some silverware, and he finds himself up against the side he both coached and played at, with Amakhosi playmaker Siphiwe Tshabalala also a former Stars man.
Big occasions such as these are often decided on who wants it more, and according to Chiefs’ young defender, Siyabonga Ngezana, Amakhosi badly want to win the competition.
“We need to have something to brag about at the end of the season, and we need to fulfil our promises that we made to our supporters at the start of the season,” he said.
“We haven’t won anything for the past three seasons, and I think we need to win this weekend’s game more than Free State Stars do.
“In fact, we need the Nedbank Cup as a whole because it also comes with CAF qualification, so this is the one we’re pinning our focus on.”
Ea Lla Koto boast rising stars such as Nyiko Mobbie and Siyethemba Jantjie, alongside a handful of experienced campaigners who could be crucial on the big stage.
Head coach Luc Eymael told TimesLIVE this week. “We are obviously very motivated to win‚ the club have not been to the final since 1994 and not won any major competition since that year [when they claimed the Coca-Cola Cup].
“We have players like Paulus Masehe‚ Siphelele Mthembu‚ Patrick Phungwayo and Rooi Mahamutsa who have played in cup finals before with other clubs‚ so they know how good it feels to play in a final.”
Neither side has any suspensions, and while Stars should have a clean bill of health, Chiefs are sweating on the fitness of players Ramahlwe Mphahlele, Erick Mathoho, Hadebe and Gustavo Paez.
The Glamour Boys remain on track for what would be a record 14th trophy in this competition, their last triumph having come in 2013.
Stars have a chance to make the finals having appeared in the semi-final stage in 2008, 2010 and 2012.