The AmaKhosi, who defeated SuperSport United in the 2013 final of South Africa’s premier knockout competition, will clash with Lidoda Duvha at the Peter Mokaba Stadium in Polokwane on Sunday (kick-off 15h00). It is a repeat of the second match played in 2012 when Chiefs triumphed 4-0, with striker Lehlohonolo Majoro bagging all four goals.
He will not feature due to his departure to Orlando Pirates but there could be game-time for new recruit Katlego Mphela, who arrived last month from Mamelodi Sundowns.
Leopards have kicked into gear after a slow start to the season under new coach Kosta Papic – once at the helm of both Chiefs and Pirates – and are now among the National First Division (NFD) leaders and eyeing a return to the top-flight at the end of the campaign.
Pirates have an equally tricky away day as they clash with Thanda Royal Zulu at the Umhlathuze Sports Complex in Richards Bay on Saturday. Thanda narrowly missed out on promotion at the end of last season and after much change within the team, they have battled so far in this league campaign. But they would like nothing more than to perform a giant-killing act over The Buccaneers, who are looking to reach a fourth cup final this season.
This year’s competition will get under way when Mamelodi Sundowns travel to Ajax Cape Town on Friday, a game that will be played at the more compact Athlone Stadium.
Coincidentally, these same two sides met in Cape Town in the Last 32 in 2013, with Sundowns’ left-back Tebogo Langerman netting a superb long-range goal to give his side a win in extra-time.
The Brazilians were the inaugural victors in the Nedbank Cup competition in 2008, beating then NFD side Mpumalanga Black Aces in the final. That was, however, the last trophy they won and they will be looking to end six years of hurt for their faithful fans by winning again.
There are also a number of all-Premier Soccer League ties to look forward to, not least Polokwane City’s trip to the King Zwelithini Stadium just outside Durban to face Lamontville Golden Arrows on Saturday. These two sides played out a five-goal thriller in the league two weeks ago, with Golden Arrows’ Rudolph Bester scoring with virtually the last touch of the game to see his side to a 3-2 win.
There is also a Tshwane Derby between University of Pretoria and SuperSport United on the same evening that has all the hallmarks of a classic cup encounter. And at the same time Maritzburg United will hope to continue their resurgence under new coach Steve Komphela when they host Mpumalanga Black Aces at the Harry Gwala Stadium in Pietermaritzburg.
Black Aces were winners of this competition in 1993, beating Chiefs in the final, but Maritzburg have never won a major trophy in their history.
There are also plenty of opportunities for some of the giant-killing acts that makes the Nedbank Cup a thrilling competition for fans of the lower league clubs.
Platinum Stars have already won two domestic trophies this season and are going for what would be a remarkable hat-trick in the Nedbank Cup. They are up against Limpopo SAFA Second Division side Great North FC at the Royal Bafokeng Sports Palace near Rustenburg on Saturday, who will be looking to emulate fellow third-tier side ALS Puk Tuwana, who ousted Dikwena from this competition in 2010.
Big-spending BidVest Wits go into the unknown as they tackle fellow Gauteng side AmaBEE, who won their place in the Last 32 the hard way. Having worked through the qualifiers in Gauteng, they then faced Polokwane City Rovers from North West in a play-off that was won.
The Tembisa-based have ambitions to be a top-flight side one day and will relish the chance to test themselves against one of the best teams in the country at the Sinaba Stadium in Daveyton on Saturday.
Moroka Swallows will welcome Mpumalanga third-tier side Mbombela United to the Dobsonville Stadium in Soweto on Saturday night. Swallows, Nedbank Cup champions in 2009 will be hot favourites, but United will have learnt much from their participation in the Nedbank Cup last year, when they were ousted by NFD side Vasco da Gama in the first round.
Fourth-tier University of Stellenbosch will host Bloemfontein Celtic at their Coetzenburg Stadium in Stellenbosch next Wednesday in what is a major test of the progress they have made in recent years. Maties have reinvigorated their football programme and recently signed a partnership with SuperSport United that they hope will lead to bigger things in the coming years.
Of the other matches to be played, Free State Stars welcome NFD side Witbank Spurs to the Charles Mopeli Stadium in Phuthaditjhaba on Saturday, while AmaZulu travel to NFD opposition in the form of United FC at Rustenburg’s Olympia Stadium on Sunday.
NFD pacesetters Milano United host third-tier Bloemfontein Young Tigers at the Wynberg Military Base in Cape Town on the same day, while Northern Cape fourth-tier side Mainstay United entertain NFD outfit African Warriors at the Mxolisi Bicky Jacob Stadium in Upington (15h00).
There are two more games on Wednesday as well, NFD side Santos, winners of the Nedbank Cup competition in 2001 and 2003, host KwaZulu-Natal third-tier side Gamalakhe United at the Athlone Stadium in Cape Town (19h30).
Finally, Eastern Cape SAFA Second Division side FC Buffalo entertain NFD club FC Cape Town at the Jan Smuts Stadium in East London (19h30).
NEDBANK CUP LAST 32 FIXTURES
Friday, February 21
20h00 – Ajax Cape Town vs Mamelodi Sundowns (Athlone Stadium)
Saturday, February 22
14h30 – Thanda Royal Zulu vs Orlando Pirates (Umhlathuze Sports Complex)
15h00 – Free State Stars vs Witbank Spurs (Charles Mopeli Stadium)
15h00 – Platinum Stars vs Great North (Royal Bafokeng Stadium)
15h00 – AmaBEE vs Bidvest Wits (Sinaba Stadium)
18h00 – Golden Arrows vs Polokwane City (King Zwelithini Stadium)
20h15 – University of Pretoria vs SuperSport United (Tuks Stadium)
20h15 – Moroka Swallows vs Mbombela United (Dobsonville Stadium)
20h15 – Maritzburg Utd vs Mpumalanga Black Aces (Harry Gwala Stadium)
Sunday, February 23
15h00 – Black Leopards vs Kaizer Chiefs (Peter Mokaba Stadium)
15h00 – Milano United vs Bloem Tigers (Wynberg Military Base)
15h00 – United FC vs AmaZulu (Olympia Stadium)
15h00 – Mainstay United vs African Warriors (Mxolisi Bicky Jacob Stadium)
Wednesday, February 26
19h30 – Santos vs Gamalakhe United (Athlone Stadium)
19h30 – FC Buffalo vs FC Cape Town (Jan Smuts Stadium
19h30 – University of Stellenbosch vs Bloem Celtic (Coetzenburg Stadium)