Johannesburg - AmaZulu coach Neil Tovey has a plan to get past favourites Mamelodi Sundowns, in the semi-final of the Nedbank Cup scheduled for Durban’s Absa Stadium on Saturday night.
But first the former Bafana Bafana and Kaizer Chiefs captain has a major headache to solve. He has his three key defenders, captain Pere Ariweriyai, Warren Bishop and Marc van Heerden all suspended.
Nigerian born Ariweriyai picked up a third yellow card in the 2-1 quarterfinal win over hard running Pretoria University played in Pietermaritzburg last weekend. Bishop was sent off in that match against his former club and will miss the final should AmaZulu beat the Brazilians.
“I will have to shuffle my defence, but fortunately I have experienced and quality players I can bring in," said Tovey Thursday.
"Defensively we have been solid this season and these suspensions are not the end of the world as I have full confidence in the players coming in.”
But Tovey, who lifted the African Nations Cup in 1996 when Bafana conquered Africa, was not pleased with Bishop, the former Tuks skipper, whose two bookings will cost him a place in the final should Usuthu defeat Downs.
“I was unhappy with Bishop’s sending off as I warned him at half-time to be careful as he was already on a yellow card.”
Tovey has Abdullahi Ishaka to cover for Van Heerden’s left back position, while Sipho Mkhonza and S’boniso Gumede are ready to fill in at the centre of the defence for Ariweriyai and Bishop.
Under Tovey AmaZulu have blossomed in 2010 and the former Amakhosi star is determined to win the first piece of silverware for his club in 18 years.
“Not winning a cup in 18 years is a long time for a club like AmaZulu and I honestly believe good times are around the corner. I have a strategy worked out and we can get past them and into the final.”
AmaZulu have reached the semi-finals of both the Telkom Knockout and MTN8 competitions this season.
Tovey said playing at the Absa Stadium would not be a major benefit to his players. “We have not played at the Absa Stadium for the past three years while Sundowns played there last weekend when they beat Orlando Pirates (3-1 after extra time). So if anything, Downs have the advantage of having played there.
“But the ground advantage is not an issue. It will be up to us to take the game to Sundowns and believe me, we are going to come out guns blazing and by the end of the night Sundowns will know they have been in a match.”
Downs caretaker coach Trott Moloto, was smiling after his side defeated 10-man Pirates because of midfielder Josephy Kamwendo's sending off early in the second half.
He has the likes of attacking midfielders Lebo “Cheeseboy” Mokoena and Benedict Vilakazi in high spirits after both scored in that win over their former teammates.
Both will play key roles against AmaZulu as well as super sub Koketso Mmotong. The trio will put the untested AmaZulu defence under pressure.
In the other semi-final BidVest Wits meet Free State Stars at Potchefstroom’s Olen Park on Saturday afternoon 3pm.
The Students needed a penalty shootout to get past an ordinary FC Cape Town from the National First Division after a dull 0-0 draw after extra time at Milpark last weekend and will have to raise their game if they should hope to get into their first Cup final since winning both the BP Top Eight and Coca-Cola Cups in 1996.