The 2015/16 MTN8 campaign was launched on Thursday evening at a glitzy event at Melrose Arch in Johannesburg. The traditional season opener is for eight of last season’s top teams, and offers a massive R8 million in prize money. The tournament, dubbed ‘Wafa-Wafa’ has been running under the guise of the mobile company for the last eight years now, having been won by Kaizer Chiefs in the inaugural season in 2008.
Incidentally, Chiefs are also the defending champions this time around and all eyes will be on them in the first round. This is partly due to the fact that they had a stellar season last time out, and mainly because their new man in charge Steve Komphela will be facing his former employers in the form of Maritzburg United. Komphela left the KZN side at the end of last season, and faces a mammoth task of emulating the success of his predecessor Stuart Baxter.
Komphela says: ‘It’s more of a snake that one gave birth to, and must find a stick to kill it. Obviously it’s not going to be an easy one because it’s a team that I used to coach. But I know some of their secrets, although I don’t know what they have changed.’ The man who replaced him at The Team Of Choice, Mandla Ncikazi, seems to be more reliant of the physicality of players at his disposal.
Ncikazi says players from that part of the world are more gifted in terms of stature, and has confidence in that aspect of their game: ‘I have this belief that a rural area produces taller players. Stronger players physically, stronger players mentally based on what they eat geographically.’ Another interesting affair will be that of Ajax Cape Town and Orlando Pirates. The Urban Warriors came from within a whisker of winning the last cup tournament of last season, and will surely still be feeling buoyed by that.
On the other hand, Pirates went all the way to the final of the MTN8 last season, and just came short of the trophy after losing 1-0 to Chiefs, which means they too will be confident. However the Buccaneers have not had much of a rest since the season ended, having been involved in continental matters. Roger De Sa, who now coaches the Cape Town side, says this will have no bearing on their encounter with the Sea Robbers.
De Sa says Pirates won’t be fazed by that: ‘I’ve been there and we had to play in the top 8 and went all the way to the final and we had some tough opposition. We beat SuperSport right after we played Al Ahly away.’ According to the former Bafana Bafana goalkeeper, he and his team are up for the challenge of having to win at Orlando Stadium for the first time. He says he’s always confident of going all the way, and this time will be no different.
The MTN8 kicks off on the 4th of August , with Bidvest Wits facing SuperSport United at Milpark.
4th August 2015
Bidvest Wits vs SuperSport United – Bidvest Stadium
Orlando Pirates vs Ajax Cape Town – Orlando Stadium
5th August 2015
Mamelodi Sundowns vs Bloemfontein Celtic – Lucas Moripe Stadium
Kaizer Chiefs vs Maritzburg United – FNB Stadium