Stage set for Benni's big MTN8 fi­nal

Cape Argus - - Front Page - ROD­NEY REINERS

CAPE TOWN CITY coach Benni McCarthy was beam­ing from ear to ear, sport­ing a grin as wide as Ta­ble Moun­tain, when given the news that right-back Tham­sanqa Mkhize is fit, avail­able and ready to give his all in to­mor­row’s MTN8 fi­nal against Su­perS­port United at the Moses Mab­hida Sta­dium in Dur­ban (7pm kick­off, live on SS4).

Mkhize im­pressed on his Bafana Bafana de­but in a 3-1 over Burk­ina Faso in Jo­han­nes­burg at the week­end. Late in the game, though, the in­dus­tri­ous de­fender was in­jured and, no doubt, many groans of de­spair re­ver­ber­ated around the Mother City. The last thing City needed was to go into a Cup fi­nal with­out an in­flu­en­tial player like Mkhize. With Bafana hav­ing al­ready made three sub­sti­tu­tions at the time, Mkhize, de­spite limp­ing badly, then hob­bled through the clos­ing stages of the match. In essence, this at­ti­tude is just in his na­ture – he doesn’t know when to quit and he’ll run through a brick wall in sup­port of the team. It’s this type of com­mit­ment that McCarthy is de­mand­ing from his team for the fi­nal, which is why he is ec­static to have Mkhize all set to go to­mor­row.

“Thami (Mkhize) is fine, he’s 100 per­cent,” said McCarthy. “Thami is a trooper, a real glad­i­a­tor. I thought he was tremen­dous for Bafana and he has sent out strong sig­nals to the rest of the coun­try that they will have to come take his po­si­tion in the na­tional team. Last sea­son he was good, this sea­son’s he (has) taken it up a few notches.

“He’s a great player to coach; he’s self-mo­ti­vated, works very hard and cer­tainly de­served the Bafana call-up. As far as I am con­cerned, Thami’s an ex­am­ple to other play­ers in South Africa about how hun­gry and dis­ci­plined a player has to be to achieve his goals.”

Con­fi­dence is, of course, a manda­tory pre­req­ui­site for any foot­ball team with de­signs on win­ning a tro­phy. It’s no dif­fer­ent for City as they pre­pare for to­mor­row’s Cup fi­nal against Su­perS­port – and the re­turn of new Bafana re­cruit Mkhize cer­tainly pro­vides a mas­sive dose of con­fi­dence. Mkhize is still de­lighted at hav­ing been part of the Bafana squad. True to char­ac­ter, though, there is no sud­den swag­ger about his per­sona be­cause of the el­e­vated sta­tus his pres­ence in the na­tional team af­fords him. In fact, the one word that sums up his re­sponse is “grate­ful”.

“Be­ing in the Bafana team was (a) great ex­pe­ri­ence,” said Mkhize. “I’m grate­ful to have been given an op­por­tu­nity to play in the na­tional team. It was fan­tas­tic to be among the best play­ers in South Africa, those who play abroad and those who are with big clubs in the coun­try. Most of all, though, I am also grate­ful for my City team­mates, with­out them it would not have been pos­si­ble.

“The Bafana game was also a good con­fi­dence booster head­ing into the Cup fi­nal. Now I can come back to my club, con­tinue to work hard, and hope­fully con­trib­ute to a win­ning team per­for­mance on Satur­day. I am grate­ful to be at a club like City that are chal­leng­ing for ev­ery­thing. I’ve al­ways wanted to play for a team that makes it to Cup fi­nals and chal­lenges for the ti­tle.”

Mkhize ad­mit­ted that it wouldn’t be easy against Su­perS­port, es­pe­cially with for­mer City coach Eric Tin­kler run­ning the show for the op­po­si­tion. But, while many be­lieve Tin­kler’s pres­ence pro­vides Su­perS­port with an in­sight into the strengths and weak­nesses of the City team, Mkhize says it’s just as im­por­tant to re­alise that the op­po­site is as true: City’s play­ers also know what to ex­pect from Tin­kler.

“I think with coach Tin­kler at Su­perS­port it gives us a bit of an ad­van­tage, in that we know how he likes to set things up,” said Mkhize. “But it still won’t be easy be­cause Su­perS­port are not just a good team, they’re a good club. They have a lot of good, ex­pe­ri­enced play­ers, and I think their key man could (be) ‘Yeye’ (cen­tral mid­fielder Reneilwe Let­sho­n­yane). But we also have play­ers who can give us some­thing on the day, like Thabo No­dada, Robyn Jo­hannes and Ayanda Patosi, so we will be ready for them. Most im­por­tantly, look­ing at Satur­day, we have to make sure that we are on top of our game. We have to play as a col­lec­tive, win our chal­lenges, and make sure that ev­ery­body works to­gether for us to get the win.”

BACKPAGEPIX

HIGH-FLYER: Tham­sanqa Mkhize is grate­ful to be at a club like Cape Town City who are chal­leng­ing for ev­ery­thing.

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