The Team of Choice are still looking to find their best form in the Absa Premiership, but for this weekend, they turn their attention to the Telkom Knockout (TKO) quarter-final showdown with Gavin Hunt’s Bidvest Wits side at the Harry Gwala Stadium on Saturday night (20h15 kick off).
The Clever Boys, the defending TKO champions, booked their spot in the last eight with a slender 1-0 win over Free State Stars, while Maritzburg showed great character and determination to come from a goal down to beat Highlands Park 2-1 in the previous round.
The KZN Midlands team will be looking for more of that spirit when they take on a Clever Boys side currently top of the league standings. United head into Saturday’s clash on the back of a 0-1 defeat in the Premiership to Polokwane City, a game in which Thlone believes lessons were learnt.
“The result was not a true reflection of the game. But what we learnt is that if you don’t take your opportunities, it comes back to haunt you. We were supposed to have won that game, now we need to make up for it in the cup,” said the Maritzburg defender.
“Wits have started well, they’re doing well in the league. When it comes to the cup, it’s a different ball game. We’re prepared well, all is good in our camp and we are ready for Saturday.”
Maritzburg can of course look to last season’s Nedbank Cup run for inspiration – not only did they make it to the final, but they also excelled in the league and managed a fourth place finish.
“A good cup run lifts the spirit of the team,” the former Wits man explained. “When you keep on winning, you get that belief that you can actually go all the way. If we can beat Wits on the weekend, for us it would be like a new start, and it can lead to greater things for our season.”
The Team of Choice will be out to rewrite history against the Students, having gone over four years without victory against the Johannesburg side since a 1-0 away win in May of 2014. The only previous time United have beaten Wits in Pietermaritzburg was in 2009, after Sipho Mngomezulu and Bageta Dikulu inspired a 2-1 win.
Stats though are there to rewritten and coach Fadlu Davids and his men will be fired up to do the business in front of Maritzburg’s partisan home supporters on Saturday night!
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