No tears shed as second-tier clubs knock out the topflight
Nedbank Cup last 32 is packed with National First Division teams that have closed gap on premiership
When the Nedbank Cup last 32 is played this week, there will be a record seven sides from the National First Division competing, illustrating the potential closing of the gap between the topflight and the country’s second division.
Maccabi FC will be the only one of the last 32 sides not present after they contrived to lose on penalties to third-tier Magic FC, despite dominating the game and wasting a hatful of chances.
Richards Bay, Tshakhuma Tsha Madzivhandila, Witbank Spurs and Jomo Cosmos will be present, having already knocked out Premier League opposition this season, with the second-tier clubs unbeaten against the topflight teams in this year’s competition.
Brandon Truter, who has turned Richards Bay from relegation candidates to promotion hopefuls this season, and masterminded their victory away at defending Nedbank Cup champions Free State Stars in the last 32, feels there is a closing of the gap between the two divisions.
The former Cape Town All Stars coach believes the quality of the second tier has markedly improved as he prepares for a return to the Free State and a last 16 fixture at Bloemfontein Celtic on Saturday night.
“The gap is closing, the NFD has changed a lot in the last few years,” Truter said. “I think a lot of that is down to the coaches. It is no longer the old NFD where the football was just long balls, kick and rush and everybody fighting for the second ball. You find a lot more quality football, a lot of good tactical play, more structure and patterns.”
Truter said a lot more work goes into preparing for matches in the second-tier than before.
“We analyse each other a lot more, I now see opposition coaches coming to our games to watch how we play, which is not something I experienced previously. I am not surprised to see the number of NFD teams that have gone through [in the Nedbank Cup] the quality of the league has improved so much.”
Truter said he is often surprised at the quality of players he comes across in the NFD. “There are a lot of players that deserve to play in the higher league, there is such amazing talent in the NFD.”
His opinion is backed up by the relative comfort with which promoted sides Highlands Park and Black Leopards have eased into Premier League life this season, not looking out of their depth, using many of the players who competed for them in the NFD last campaign.
There will be at least two NFD teams in the Nedbank Cup quarterfinals this year as Cape Umoya United host Mbombela United in the last 16 on Friday and Jomo Cosmos entertain TS Galaxy on Sunday.
Witbank Spurs will host Lamontville Golden Arrows on Saturday afternoon, while at the same time TTM make the journey to resurgent Chippa United.