There’s no doubt that the Royal AM versus Orlando Pirates clash on Saturday night is the peak of the MTN8 first-round fixtures.
Here’s what you need to know about the quarterfinal confrontation between the two sides:
• Royal AM and Orlando Pirates will be meeting for the second time in 10 days after they met in the league last week. That fixture was also played in Durban and Pirates claimed a 1-0 win, thanks to a goal from Deon Hotto.
• That was the third official meeting between the clubs after they also played to two draws in the league last season. The first was a 1-1 stalemate in Soweto before they played to a thrilling 2-2 draw in the return league clash in Durban. Pirates were 2-0 up inside seven minutes in that game but Royal AM rallied to get the point they needed to secure a third place in the league. Hotto also scored in that match, which means he has two in two against Royal AM.
• The Durban side are making their debut in the top eight competition and have a trio of co-coaches, one of who has tasted cup success before. Dan Malesela won the Nedbank Cup with then second-tier TS Galaxy when they shocked Kaizer Chiefs 1-0 in the final in 2019. The other Royal AM co-coaches are Khabo Zondo and Abram Nteo.
• Pirates’ victory in the final in 2020 ended the club’s run of six years without a trophy of any kind, and nine years since they had won the MTN8. It was also the only piece of silverware in South Africa for their German coach Josef Zinnbauer, who resigned a few days after they were knocked out of the 2021 MTN8 at the quarterfinal stage by Swallows FC.
• Aside from their 2020 win, Pirates have exited in the quarterfinals of the MTN8 in five of the last six appearances, a dismal run of failure by their high standards. Before that, they made two finals in a row in 2013 and 2014 but lost them both to more disappointment.
• Royal AM have never won a major trophy in their history but will compete in the CAF Confederation Cup this year after their third-place finish in the league in the 2021/22 season.
• Former Pirates defender Thabo Matlaba now turns out for Royal AM and will be itching to play against his former side one more time. Royal also have another former Bucs player in their ranks in the form of winger Menzi Masuku.
MTN8 fixtures this weekend:
Cape Town City vs AmaZulu (Athlone Stadium, 3pm)
Royal AM vs Orlando Pirates (Chatsworth Stadium, 6pm)
Stellenbosch vs Kaizer Chiefs (Danie Craven Stadium, 3pm)
Mamelodi Sundowns vs SuperSport United (ABSA Tuks Stadium, 6pm).