JOHANNESBURG — Mamelodi Sundowns will step out for the Nedbank Cup final not only looking at finishing the season with some piece of silverware, but also seeking to become the only team to lift the cup twice under the Nedbank sponsorship banner.
Sundowns will also be aware that a win at Orlando Stadium this afternoon — which will also be the first trophy for their Dutch coach Johan Neeskens at Downs — will bring to an end a frustrating four-year trophy drought.
Downs meet Tshwane neighbours SuperSport United in the country’s national knockout cup, which will also bring an end to the 2011-2012 season.
The Brazilians — who are already the only team to reach the final twice under the Nedbank banner — were the winners of the premier knockout cup when the banking company took over from Absa in 2008.
That 2008 success came via a late strike by Lerato Chabangu at Johannesburg Stadium over a plucky Mpumalanga Black Aces.
Since that 2008 cup final victory the closest that Sundowns have come to winning another trophy was in the MTN8 final that was played later on that year, which they lost on penalties to Kaizer Chiefs.
Then two years ago, Downs had another decent run in the Nedbank Cup before being elbowed out in the last four by AmaZulu.
Besides these two runs, Sundowns have not got anywhere close to a piece of silverware in the last four years, which is why they will be so desperate to make this particular final in Orlando count.
Today it will be four years and two days to the day since Sundowns tasted glory when Michael Manzini lifted the last piece of silverware that found its way to Chloorkop.
Only Esrom Nyandoro and Surprise Moriri have survived, of the Sundowns team that played on that May 24 2008 afternoon, and the two veteran midfielders are expected to start yet again today.
Another Zimbabwean, striker Nyasha Mushekwi could also start alongside former Warriors captain Method Mwanjali.
And since that success of four years when Trott Moloto was in charge, Sundowns have also had Henri Michel, Ted Dumitru, Hristo Stoichkov, Antoni Lopez Habas, Ian Gorowa take charge of the dressing-room before current boss Johan Neeskens’ arrival.
In just four years Sundowns have had seven men in charge proving just how unstable they have been since they last won silverware.
Besides the success of 2008 Sundowns have only ever won the country’s premier knockout competition twice back in 1998 when it was sponsored by Rothmans and in 1986 when it was known as the Mainstay Cup.
SuperSport’s Gavin Hunt feels that with the investment Sundowns have in their team, they will be under more pressure to win the Nedbank Cup.
Hunt believes this could also work to their advantage as his team is not under the same pressure to lift the trophy — something he hopes will help him end his cup jinx with SuperSport.
Despite winning the League title three times in succession with Matsatsantsa, Hunt is yet to win any knockout trophies with the club.
“They have invested a lot in their team, so the expectations are higher for them,” he says.
“The good thing about playing in the Nedbank Cup final is that it keeps your season going right till the end. I think the positive results last week had to do with the Cup Final and the win against Sundowns.
“We knew we would play them in the Final and I said let’s try and see what we can do before the final, so certainly it kept our season going, that’s for sure,” he adds.
If Hunt wins this trophy with United, it will be his second knockout cup title in his coaching career. The last time he won a cup final was when he was in charge at Moroka Swallows, winning the Absa Cup in 2004.
“I won a few trophies before, but with SuperSport it’s a first cup final and obviously there is one player left from the times when they won a few, Ricardo Katza, who won’t play.
“It’s a new team and we have pretty much moved on from that. “It’s a big occasion; it’s a huge final against our local rivals and we are looking forward to it. But as long as we give an honest performance and we do the right thing I will be happy,” Hunt says.