2/21/2024 12:00:00 AM

Highlands Park dream of Nedbank Cup upset

PIC: Highlands Park coach Allan Freese

Highlands Park were a well-established topflight side with dreams of winning the Nedbank Cup four years ago, but the sale of their DStv Premiership status to TS Galaxy means they have started again in the lower reaches of South African football.

They are back in the Nedbank Cup this year, but as a Gauteng ABC Motsepe League side with a young squad, but still the same ambition.
They have veteran coach Allan Freese at the helm, who has a long affiliation with the team and led Platinum Stars to MTN8 and Telkom Knockout success in 2013.

He understands the challenges ahead of their clash with last year’s beaten finalists Sekhukhune United, but is hopeful his team can spring a surprise. 
“We played hard to get here,” Freese said. “Out of all the 32 teams (in the Nedbank Cup first round), I think we played the most games to get to where we are. Playoffs in the ABC Motsepe League first, playoffs with the provincial games also, so it was quite a journey to get here and I’m happy to be here.

“It is the first time for some of our young boys that are playing, which will be good for them. We hope to do well but hope also for the young boys to get exposure.”

Sekhukhune are hoping to go one better than their final defeat to Orlando Pirates last season when they went down 2-1 at Loftus Stadium despite taking the lead.

They also faced SAFA opposition in the Last 32 in 2023. They beat fourth-tier Liver Brothers 6-0 for what remains a club record win.

The teams clash in the Last 32 at the Dobsonville Stadium on Wednesday.
University of Pretoria face Cape Town Spurs in a fixture that would have been a second-tier clash last season before the latter won promotion.

It has been a tough return to the topflight for Spurs, but they got a morale-boosting 3-1 victory over AmaZulu at the weekend and will hope to gain further momentum with a cup run. German coach Ernst Middendorp remains pragmatic about their chances.

“We’re chasing something impossible, and chasing is allowed and chasing is what we are doing,” he said. “What we have to do, as long as we think about, as long as we have a little bit of hope to do so. And yeah, that’s our work. That’s our doing.

“And I’m not talking about that we are now seeing the end of the tunnel. There is no light at the end of the tunnel, not yet.”

AmaTuks were Nedbank Cup finalists as a second tier side in 2009, losing to Moroka Swallows with Steve Barker at the helm. That run inspired a young Tlisane Motaung to take up coaching and now he finds himself at the helm aiming to repeat that feat.

The side sit proudly on top of the Motsepe Foundation Championship with just three defeats in 19 games so far this campaign.

“I believe this time around we have assembled a good enough squad that we can be competitive in all competitions,” Motaung said.

AmaTuks defeated what was then Ajax Cape Town in the 2009 Nedbank Cup semifinals, their shock 2-1 win setting up a final with Swallows. They have twice been to the quarterfinals since then, but that is as far as they got.
Their clash takes place at the Tuks Stadium on Wednesday night.

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