Bucs begin Cup title defence
Siyabonga Sangweni (Gallo)
Johannesburg - Orlando Pirates will start their MTN8 title defence against plucky Bloemfontein Celtic at Orlando Stadium on Friday evening.
Last season's treble winners are chasing another milestone - a third successive top-eight title - but it will not come easily as they begin their quest against the plucky Free State visitors.
"We will be playing in front of our supporters so we have a duty to win," Siyabonga Sangweni, the side's Player of the Season, told the Pirates website.
"Home games are usually the trickiest because everybody expects you to win.
"Unfortunately in football home advantage counts for nothing - we will go onto the field as a unit and try to get a good result."
Celtic have beefed up their squad with some strong acquisitions in former Kaizer Chiefs defender Dominic Isaacs and talented creative midfielder Kurt Lentjies.
Up front, former Jomo Cosmos striker Siyabonga Nontshinga, who earned a Bafana Bafana cap earlier this year, will be out to prove his worth.
On Saturday, SuperSport United face Free State Stars in Polokwane in a match that United captain Thabo September expected to be scrappy affair.
"Stars are always tough, but our players are anxious to get the season started," September said ahead of the clash.
"We have made some good signings to this team even though we'll pretty much play the same way.
"But this is a first match for both teams, so we'll be happy with registering a win."
The most appetising of the quarter-final ties, however, is the encounter between Mamelodi Sundowns and Kaizer Chiefs at Loftus on Sunday afternoon.
The star-studded Brazilians come off an ordinary preseason, including early elimination in last weekend's Mopani Cup in Giyani.
"Coming into the new season, the expectations are high again," said veteran midfielder Surprise Moriri.
"It has been four seasons since we last won a trophy."
Chiefs will miss star midfielder Siphiwe Tshabalala and his understudy on the left flank, George Lebese, because of injury, but Amakhosi midfielder Josta Dladla believed they would be prepared for the crunch fixture in Pretoria.
Chiefs went down in the Carling Black Label Cup last week, losing to Pirates on penalties.
"We will be much better and ready for Sundowns this coming weekend," Dladla said.
"Playing them in their own backyard will be tough, but we are ready for them.
"They are going to come at us and we will definitely be going for them." At Dobsonville Stadium, Moroka Swallows, under new coach Zeca Marques, will host AmaZulu.
Usuthu had a formidable pre-season fixture against Manchester United, having drawn 1-1 with the English giants in Durban two weeks ago.