Can AmaZulu, Richards Bay break KwaZulu-Natal football trophy drought?

AmaZulu’s Thembela Sikhakhane in action during a training session ahead of their Carling Knockout Cup semi-final against TS Galaxy

AmaZulu’s Thembela Sikhakhane in action during a training session ahead of their Carling Knockout Cup semi-final against TS Galaxy. Photo: Gerhard Duraan/BackpagePix

Published Dec 1, 2023


The inaugural campaign of the Carling Knockout Cup resulted in a lot of weight being placed on the KwaZulu-Natal contingent ahead of the semi-final stage.

The lucrative competition has been one of many shocks, which was encapsulated in the elimination of favourites Mamelodi Sundowns in the opening round. With the likes of Orlando Pirates, Kaizer Chiefs and SuperSport United already dumped out as well, the pressure has shifted towards the unexpected final four sides remaining.

Stellenbosch, TS Galaxy, AmaZulu and Richards Bay will duel over the weekend with a few milestones set to be reached, with just one major trophy between the four clubs.

The weight of the entire province has been resting heavily on Usuthu and the Natal Rich Boyz since the beginning of the week, with many expecting a KZN derby final. The added gloss of the Moses Mabhida Stadium hosting the final on the December 16 continues to add fuel to an already strong fire.

The King Zwelithini Stadium will host the first semi-final between Richards Bay and Stellies at 3pm tomorrow, with both teams looking to reach a first cup final in the top flight.

Usuthu will then have homeground advantage when The Rockets come to town on Sunday. Kick-off at the Moses Mabhida Stadium is at 3pm.

The football dialogues in taxi ranks, offices and taverns around the Zulu kingdom have been of the possibility of ending a 14-year cup drought for the province.

Golden Arrows, who were eliminated in the last round, were the last club to win silverware back in 2009, but an all-KZN final could mark the end of that dark cloud.

While many may foresee the most glamorous possibility, recent history suggests The Rockets possess the requisite knowledge to finish a cup run having clinched the Nedbank Cup in 2019 while in the second division.

For Stellies, an opportunity to ‘spoil the party’ in uMlazi could present the required motivation to topple a fairly inexperienced Richards Bay outfit, who are in their first top-flight semi-final.

Usuthu have proven their ability to rise to the occasion over the past two seasons by featuring in the MTN8 last season. They have also beaten Chiefs as well as rivals Arrows to still have a claim to the Carling Cup this time around.

AmaZulu defender Thembela Sikhakhane highlighted the importance of both KZN clubs meeting expectations in the semifinal to set up a battle for the big prize.

“For us as a club, it’s important we win this trophy,” he said. “From the chairman to everyone that’s involved at the club, we’ve longed for silverware.”

He added: “For KZN, if we win and Richards Bay do their bit on the other side, we can ensure the trophy stays at home even though we would love it to be us.

“KZN clubs have been playing well for a while now but without the trophies to show for it and I think it’s time we show why we should be counted amongst the big clubs as well.”

IOL Sport