Johannesburg - They have come far to get where they are now, and both deserve something this season.
Unfortunately, only one can win it.
No matter what happens on Saturday (May 19), Free State Stars coach Luc Eymael and his Maritzburg United counterpart Fadlu Davids have surpassed expectations.
After the season they have had - qualifying for the top eight in their first season at their clubs - winning the Nedbank Cup will be the cherry on top.
Looking at the statistics, very little separates the two mentors going into the season’s grand finale at Cape Town Stadium.
Three former players predicted that the scales would tip in United’s favour.
Former Orlando Pirates captain Lucky Lekgwathi said: “They have quality and look hungrier.
“Look at how they played against Sundowns and twice matched them pound for pound. Those results were no fluke. They worked hard and showed great determination, and I don’t see Stars stopping them.”
He said Stars were lucky against Kaizer Chiefs in the semi-finals.
“If Chiefs had scored in all those chances they created, Stars would not have qualified for the final.”
Former Jomo Cosmos midfielder Sipho Sephadi said United had been playing as a unit and he did not see them changing their approach.
However, the death of player Luyanda Ntshangase could affect them emotionally.
The 21-year-old was struck by lightning during a friendly game in March and died in hospital last week. His funeral was in Pietermaritzburg on Thursday.
“I’m not sure how far the death of Luyanda has affected them. But I think they will win it for sentimental reasons,” he said.
Former Pirates striker Andries Sebola said United would be too good for Stars.
“Luc has done well for Stars, but I don’t see them stopping United. My money is on Fadlu because he has a good team and I think they have come too far to let it slip away at this stage,” he said.
But he, too, believed the team’s performance would depend on their mental state following Ntshangase’s death.
Although it is difficult to single out the best performers in United’s team, Siphesihle Ndlovu, Deolin Mekoa, Lebohang Maboe, Andrea Fileccia and Fortune Makaringe have carried the team so far.
Stars have their own workhorses in captain Paulus Masehe, goalkeeper Thela Ngobeni, Rooi Mahamutsa, Sinethemba Jantjie and Patrick Phungwayo, who made sure the team reached the final.
This could probably be the last chance for either captain to lift a trophy in their career.
With Bevan Fransman and Paulus Masehe on the wrong side of 30 - they are both 34 - this will be the best way to end their careers. Unfortunately, only one will be able to do so.
It’s a tough encounter to predict, but Stars will shine bright to cause an upset and take the crown back to the Free State.