Depleted or not Chiefs must play healthy Wits
KAIZER Chiefs will have to honour their date with Wits at Milpark stadium tonight despite objecting to playing the Telkom Knockout match so soon after the international break.
Amakhosi expressed their discontent at having to face the Students barely three days after eight of their core players were on national duty over the past week.
Itumeleng Khune, Siphiwe Tshabalala, Bernard Parker, George Lebese, Reneilwe Letsholonyane and Eric Mathoho were part of the Bafana Bafana team that played against Poland last week and Kenya on Tuesday.
Also Zimbabwean duo Kingston Nkhatha and Lincoln Zvasiya were involved in their country's 2013 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers.
Some of the eight players, with Khune almost a certainty, will not play any part in the game tonight as they will be in need of rest - a big blow.
Though assistant coach Doctor Khumalo lashed out at the situation, the Premiership log leaders will go for the kill.
But they are aware it will not be cool runnings to beat a rapidly improving Wits side.
Wits have enjoyed relative success in the Premiership this season with new coach Antonio Lopez Habas steering the ship - which includes a number of newly signed foot soldiers who have bolstered the side.
Orlando Pirates face a tricky opener against Leopards tomorrow at Peter Mokaba stadium.
Following a shaky start this season, which has already cost them their MTN8 title, the Buccaneers look to be finding their way under Roger de Sa.
Having already bagged the MTN8 trophy, expectations will be soaring for Moroka Swallows to add another - and the side has a shot at the Telkom Knockout.
The Dube Birds will have to beat Maritzburg United to keep any hopes of adding to their trophy cabinet. Swallows travel to the Harry Gwala stadium tomorrow night.
"This is a knockout, it all depends on who handles the nerves on the day and how you settle down into the match," said Birds coach Zeca Marques.
"The Telkom Knockout is one of those trophies we want to take to our cabinet."
Maritzburg will fancy their chances of progressing, because Ernst Middendorp's side have shown good form in the Premier League. They sit in fifth place on the PSL log, with just one defeat from seven matches.
Ajax Cape Town, who are still without a head coach, will host Supersport United at Athlone stadium.
The Capetonians picked themselves up after a 5-1 thrashing to rookies AmaTuks and the subsequent firing of head honcho Maarten Stekelenburg last month.
Interim Ajax coach Jan Pruijn is hoping home-ground advantage will assist the side in progressing in the competition.
The other match tomorrow will feature Free State Stars taking on Golden Arrows at Goble Park.
On Sunday, rookies Chippa United play Bloemfontein Celtic at Philippi stadium and AmaZulu take on Platinum Stars.
The last of the first-round matches will be played on Tuesday when Mamelodi Sundowns and AmaTuks play in the Tshwane derby at Loftus.