The Team of Choice were drawn to play Bidvest Wits for the second successive season in the first round of the Telkom Knockout (TKO), the match scheduled for an 8pm kick off at the Harry Gwala Stadium.
Perennial league and cup challengers Wits will certainly be a hard nut to crack, but with two league wins in their last two outings, both at their home fortress, there appears to be a growing sense of belief in the Maritzburg side.
Such is the nature of the game though that there can never be room for complacency, as Shandu underlines:
“There was a still lot of work to be done (during the international break). We must keep on working hard and the results will follow,” he said.
“We want to go as far as we can in this Cup, but we must take it one game at a time. We are looking at Wits right now and this is a very important game.
“When we reached the Nedbank Cup final (2018), we took each game as it came and didn’t think further than that.
“Wits are a very good side, very organised, lots of international players. So we respect them, but we’re going to work our socks off, that’s the only way to beat Wits - to work hard, to be a team and to implement the coach’s instructions.”
Shandu appealed to the Team of Choice supporters to rally behind United on Friday as the players look to tap into the fans’ energy.
“Blue Army, please come in your numbers and support us as you always do, and we’ll try give you a positive result,” he concluded.
Meanwhile, in former Clever Boys midfielder Daylon Claasen, Maritzburg have a man who is on form, who knows the opposition well, and who has the experience of winning this very same cup competition.
“With my first season at Wits, I won the Telkom Knockout with them, two years ago,” Claasen said. “That was the first Cup in South Africa that I won. So now I hope to do the same with Maritzburg, but we have to take it game by game.
“They’re a good team, good players, good organization. As Wits are familiar with winning things, it’s going to be competitive - they’re a very resilient team. But I think we are capable of beating them – we’re not a smaller team, we’re also one of the teams competing for this cup, so I’m looking forward to it.”
The 29-year-old has made a positive start to his time in Maritzburg and could again be key on Friday, although he’s making sure he remains grounded and focussed.
“I’m just playing to help the team,” pointed out the Bafana-capped midfield playmaker. “I hope it continues to go like it has in the last two games. I’m just trying to build on my performance with every game, take on the coach’s information and instructions, and I hope it all works out on Friday.”
Also up against their former club on Friday will be Nazeer Allie, Kwanda Mngomnyama and Miguel Timm.
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FULL TKO DRAW
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