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Nedbank Cup Last 16 set to thrill fans with tasty match-ups08/03/2018
The Nedbank Cup Last 16 gets under way on Friday night when AmaZulu host National First Division giant-killers Ubuntu Cape Town in Durban.
There will be eight ties in all played over six days as the remaining sides seek to book a place in the quarterfinals and move one step closer to Nedbank Cup glory.
Here is a guide to the eight Last 16 matches.
AMAZULU VS UBUNTU CAPE TOWN
Second-tier Ubuntu supplied probably the one real surprise of the first round when they beat top-flight Polokwane City 3-2 after extra-time, but that game was played in Cape Town where they have found results more forthcoming.
Usuthu are on a good run of form under coach Cavin Johnson with their mixture of youth and experience, but are winless in their last three games despite some strong performances.
They have the unhappy record of having reached the final of the Nedbank Cup competition on six previous occasions, but lost every one, most recently in 2010.
Ubuntu have won three and drawn one of their last four games and will have American coach Casey Prince on the bench after he finally secured a work permit.
FREE STATE STARS VS CHIPPA UNITED
These two sides will meet twice in a matter of days, starting with this Nedbank Cup tie and followed by a league clash in Port Elizabeth on March 17.
Stars squeezed into the Last 16 after an extra-time win over second-tier Super Eagles, and having made the semifinals of the Nedbank Cup four times in the last decade, will feel perhaps they have a squad under astute Belgian coach Luc Eymael that can go all the way.
Chippa have visited Bethlehem on five previous occasions and suffered three defeats to go with two draws but victory has so far eluded them.
This will be a first game in charge for new Chippa coach Vladislav Heric, who was only appointed last weekend for what is his second spell with the team.
Stars have lost just once in their last 11 games and are on a fantastic run of form, while Chippa are winless in their previous two matches.
BAROKA FC VS STEENBERG UNITED
A top-flight versus third-tier clash as Cape Town-based Steenberg United quite literally make a cross-country trip to Polokwane to face Baroka.
Steenberg have ambitions of making it into the NFD this season and if they do then travel will become a weekly norm, so for them this is a great test of their stamina and mental strength.
Baroka were ounce third-tier giant-killers, knocking both Moroka Swallows and Kaizer Chiefs out of the 2011 Nedbank Cup. They will be wary of falling foul of their opponents in this one and being on the wrong end of a surprise result.
Baroka are also with a new coach after Kgoloko Thobejane received the boot, replaced until the end of the season by MacDonald Makhubedu, who was in charge of third-tier Acornbush United when they defeated Cape Town City in the Nedbank Cup last season.
KAIZER CHIEFS VS STELLENBOSCH FC
This will be the second time in as many years that Chiefs and Stellenbosch go head-to-head in the Nedbank Cup. The AmaKhosi won a Last 32 clash 3-0 in 2017, with Joseph Malongoane, Siphiwe Tshabalala and Gustavo Paez, his first for the club, on target.
Chiefs have come unstuck against lower league opposition in the recent past though, losing to Black Leopards (2015), third-tier Bsroka FC (2011), FC Cape Town (2010) and University of Pretoria (2009).
Defeat would be unthinkable for coach Steve Komphela though as the Nedbank Cup likely represents his last opportunity to win a trophy at the club before his contract expires at the end of the season.
Stellenbosch were only formed in 2016 out of the ashes of Vasco da Gama, who were Nedbank Cup semifinalists in 2015.
BLOEMFONTEIN CELTIC VS RICHARDS BAY
Celtic tackle new NFD side Richards Bay, coached by the Belgian Jean Loscuito, who previously worked at Black Leopards.
Home advantage is big for the Premier League side as they are usually a tough nut in front of their own fans, though the side inexplicably slipped to a 2-0 loss to Polokwane City on their own patch on Wednesday.
Richards Bay have only played 12 away games in their short history having been created from the ashes of Thanda Royal Zulu, winning two of those.
Their only ever trip to the Free State was a 1-0 loss to Super Eagles in December.
ROYAL EAGLES VS MARITZBURG UNITED
These two sides share the Harry Gwala Stadium and will no doubt have met on many occasions in friendly games, but will actually be playing this fixture at the Princess Magogo Stadium in Durban at the request of Eagles.
It has been a solid campaign for Maritzburg, despite remarkably going 10 games in a row without one of their players finding the back of the net, with those yips now well and truly behind them.
It has been less successful for Eagles, who have seen a coaching merry-go-round. Roger Sikhakhane is their fourth coach this season after Allan Freese, Zipho Dlangalala and Kosta Papic.
Eagles have won three and drawn one of their last four games though and looked to have turned the corner under Sikhakhane. Maritzburg have had the same run of success in their last four games, suggesting this will be a clash between two form teams.
MAMELODI SUNDOWNS VS EC BEES
Easily the biggest miss-match in the Last 16, though Sundowns coach Pitso Mosimane is sure to send out a fringe side with league and African Champions League commitments also in the mix.
EC Bees are an Eastern Cape ABC Motsepe League team that hail from Bisho, and are appearing in the Nedbank Cup for the third year in a row.
They have also met top-flight opposition before in the form of Orlando Pirates, who beat them 3-1 in the Last 32 in 2017.
Sundowns were winners of this competition three years ago in 2015 and have never lost to third-tier opposition.
CAPE TOWN CITY VS ORLANDO PIRATES
Pirates have had slightly the better of City in their three previous meetings, winning a league clash 1-0 in September, while both games in the 2016/17 campaign ended in draws.
Pirates will be lifted by their 3-1 Soweto Derby victory over Kaizer Chiefs at the weekend, plus the added bonus of 10 days rest in between games.
The Buccaneers have now won their last four games in all competitions, since their last visit to Cape Town in late January that resulted in a surprise 3-0 loss to Ajax Cape Town.
Pirates have been to the last two Nedbank Cup finals, but lost to SuperSport United on both occasions. Impressively, the last four times they have made it past the Last 16 they have reached the final.
City's form has been patchy, but they have had back-to-back successes in the league and African Confederation Cup in their last two games.
*The views represented are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent those of Nedbank.