Friday Dec 01, 2023. 11:00
South Africa’s ‘League Cup’, the Carling Knockout, will see its semifinals played this weekend – with almost none of the traditional heavyweights involved.
The likes of Mamelodi Sundowns, Kaizer Chiefs, Orlando Pirates and even SuperSport United would be expected to reach the sharp end of any cup competition, but instead only AmaZulu (who have not won a major trophy since 1992) represent the ‘old guard’.
The Durban giants will play in the second semi on Sunday 3 December, welcoming TS Galaxy to the Moses Mabhida Stadium.
‘Usuthu’ ousted Chiefs and Golden Arrows in the previous two rounds, while ‘The Rockets’ shocked Sundowns in the round of 16 via penalties, before getting past Sekhukhune United in the same manner.
AmaZulu’s rise in form has come under the tenure of Spanish coach Pablo Franco Martin, who has earned praise from striker Augustine Kwem: “He is patient and he is giving us a chance to make mistakes at training because he always says ‘he will never fight you for missing a goal-scoring opportunity.
“But if you don’t put in an effort, that’s where you will have a problem with him. He gives a player confidence. We try things at training and put it in the game.”
The first semi on Saturday will take place at the King Zwelithini Stadium and sees Richards Bay host Stellenbosch FC.
While the ‘Natal Rich Boyz’ have dispensed with Moroka Swallows and Pirates (the latter via penalties), ‘Stellies’ have ousted Chippa United and Polokwane City in their run to the final four.
And the Cape visitors will feel it is high time they made a final, after appearing in the semis of the Nedbank Cup and the MTN8 in the course of 2023.
“I think we must learn from our two previous semi-finals, you know one went to penalties and one went on away goals,” said Stellenbosch coach Steve Barker.
“So having reached the semifinal three times in this calendar year you can only keep knocking on the door and you keep knocking on the door and the door will eventually open.
“So we are knocking on the door and we are knocking very loud […]. But yeah, third time this year hopefully it will be our time.”
The winners of each semi will go on to meet in the final, set for Saturday 16 December at the Moses Mabhida Stadium.
Carling Knockout semifinal fixtures
Saturday 2 December
15:00: Richards Bay v Stellenbosch FC
Sunday 3 December
15:00: AmaZulu v TS Galaxy