MTN8: The Big Preview

The first cup competition of the season kicks off on Friday when the MTN8 opening round takes centre stage in Cape Town.

Last season’s finalists and the tournament’s most successful team Kaizer Chiefs are first up in action when they face Cape Town City FC, formerly Mpumalanga Black Aces, at the Cape Town Stadium.

Amakhosi, who ended fifth last season, may have their rich history behind them – 15 titles they have won the Top Eight competition - but they are going through a delicate period of transition.

Coach Steve Komphela saw his team beaten 2-1 by Bidvest Wits in the opening match of the Absa Premiership season in midweek, whilst opponents City made an encouraging start to life in the big time with a 2-0 triumph over Polokwane City.

The Chiefs boss knows that anything less than a win in the Western Cape will spell further pressure, but he insisted that he was ready to embrace it and deliver the result that all their fans were expecting.

"You must be addicted to pressure (to coach Chiefs),” he said. “This is one great club. Who would not want this job?

"You must be prepared to sacrifice yourself. It's not about you, it's about the team and the supporters.

"Respect the people who love this brand. It's time to deliver for these people. It's my ambition."

For their opponents, fourth-placed finishers last term, and their new coach Eric Tinkler, their win over Rise and Shine was a first indication of the progress they had made after a busy off-season when they club was bought, rebranded and had to move from one end of the country to another.

“Truth be told, I knew I would only know where we are after the first game,” he said. “After the 90 minutes I have a true reflection of where we are and whether we made the right choices in terms of the players we brought in. I feel we have.

“But there is still a lot of work to be done, these guys need to get a better understanding in terms of their strengths and their weaknesses, and playing together.

“Do I think we have the talent here? I do. Will we be competitive this year? I think we will be.”

There are two further matches on Saturday. The action kicks-off with two surprise finishers from 2015/16, Platinum Stars and Chippa United, doing battle at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium. Both were winners in midweek league action beating SuperSport United (1-0) and Free State Stars (2-1) respectively.

Two more teams that started the season with league wins, Bidvest Wits and Orlando Pirates, then lock horns in the late game at the Bidvest Stadium.

Gavin Hunt’s men beat Chiefs, while the Buccaneers and their new coach Muhsin Ertugral eased to a 3-1 triumph over Lamontville Golden Arrows.

The Turkish coach is relishing the battle against Hunt, but concedes it will be tough.

“It’s always difficult,” he said. “Gavin is a friend of mine and I have great respect for him as a coach and a human being.

“We have come a long way together as friends, but it’s never easy to play against him. He has a very organised team; I watched them against Kaizer Chiefs.”

The Students ended the league second last year and Pirates were a poor seventh.

Finally, reigning league champions Mamelodi Sundowns play their first domestic match of the season on Sunday when they host SuperSport United, eighth last year, at Loftus Versfeld Stadium.

The Brazilians did not play in the league as they had CAF Champions League commitments.

They rounded off the group stages of the competition when they were beaten 3-1 by Enyimba of Nigeria in midweek, a result that little to stop Pitso Mosimane’s men from reaching the semi-finals as pool winners.

Matsatsantsa on the other hand will be desperate to bounce back after falling to that surprise loss to Stars on Wednesday.

The MTN8 quarter-final fixtures are:

Friday, August 26

20:00 - Cape Town City v Kaizer Chiefs - Cape Town Stadium

Saturday, August 27

15:00 - Platinum Stars v Chippa United - Royal Bafokeng Stadium

20:15 - Bidvest Wits v Orlando Pirates - Bidvest Stadium

Sunday, August 28

15:00 - Mamelodi Sundowns v SuperSport United - Loftus Versfeld Stadium