Sundowns battle Team of Choice in MTN8 clash

Sundowns battle Team of Choice in MTN8 clash
Tiyani Mabunda of Mamelodi Sundowns during the Absa Premiership 2016/17 match between Mamelodi Sundowns and Bloemfontein Celtic at Lucas Moripe Stadium, Atteridgeville South Africa on 05 April 2017 ©Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix

by Graeme Jackson

Saturday Aug 12, 2017. 12:00

Mamelodi Sundowns will put their reputation on the line as they battle Maritzburg United in the quarterfinals of the MTN8 at Lucas Moripe Stadium on 13 August 2017, kick-off at 15h00.

Sundowns endured a difficult season on the domestic front in 2016/17, as they were dethroned at the top of the Absa Premiership by Bidvest Wits, suffered a painful loss at the hands of the same Clever Boys in the final of the MTN8 and were eliminated relatively early in both the Telkom Knockout and Nedbank Cup.

Yet the Brazilians still gained significant glory by winning the CAF Champions League in late 2016, becoming just the second South Africa side (after Orlando Pirates) to be crowned ‘Kings of Africa’. It was a historic moment both for the club and PSL football.

‘Downs have won the Top Eight Cup three times, though not since the competition was renamed the MTN8. The Tshwane’s side last triumph in the competition was back in 2007 when it was still known as the SAA Supa8.

Maritzburg finished an impressive seventh on the Absa Premiership in 2016/17, shrugging off the loss of two head coaches - Ernst Middendorp and Roger de Sa - to secure a place in the top half of the table under Fadlu Davids, who has since been appointed manager on a permanent basis.

Yet the Team of Choice did exit both the Telkom Knockout and the Nedbank Cup early on, so there is certainly room for improvement when it comes to their cup ambitions. United last appeared in the MTN8 in 2015, when they were beaten in the quarterfinals by Kaizer Chiefs and former coach Steve Komphela.

Sundowns and Maritzburg have met in three previous cup matches, with two wins for the Brazilians and one for the Team of Choice. The teams’ most recent knockout match was a quarterfinal in the 2012 Nedbank Cup, won 2-0 by ‘Downs.

In all, Sundowns and United have met in 25 matches across all competitions since 2005/06. The Tshwane side has claimed 16 wins compared to four for the KwaZulu-Natal club, with five encounters ending in draws. Last season the teams cancelled each other out in their league meetings: 0-0 in Pietermaritzburg and 2-2 in Tshwane.

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