Nedbank Cup Preview: Crystal Lake

Orlando Pirates begin their Nedbank Cup title defence with a trip to Mpumalanga where they face SAFA Regional League outfit Crystal Lake at Mbombela Stadium on Saturday.

League football pauses momentarily as the Soweto Giants begin their quest to be crowned champions for the 10th time as they lock horns with the Bushbuckridge-based side currently competing in the fourth tier of South African football.

It’s a fixture that encompasses the unique spectacle that is the Nedbank Cup, with one of the oldest clubs competing in this year’s edition locking horns with a side that is barely a year old after its formation in 2023.

Form Guide 

Mismatches have however been a rare occurrence in the tournament over the past few years, and the minnows will be determined to make history against one of the biggest names in the competition.

Crystal Lake have the form to back up their ambition, having posted victories in each of their last seven home games. They are currently second in their subdivision of the Ehlanzeni Men’s Regional League with three wins in their last five matches, where they have lost once and played to a single stalemate.

They are now set to debut in the Last 32 of one of the country’s most prestigious tournaments, following a 1-0 victory over Middleburg United in the final of their provincial playoff.

Standing between them and a spot in the next round are the defending champions, who returned to competitive football last Saturday with a hard-fought 1-1 draw against Mamelodi Sundowns at Loftus Versfeld.

Pirates have endured a mixed bag of results in their six most recent fixtures, winning three in a row before suffering back-to-back defeats.

With one point in their last three league games, they will be looking to ensure that a return to cup football brings about an improvement in results as only a win on Saturday will do in their mission to replicate last season’s heroics.

Team News 

Bucs coach Jose Riveiro has revealed that he has close to a full squad at his disposal, with 34 out of the 36 members of the playing personnel available for selection.

Midfielder Miguel Timm is among those who will miss out as he is suspended after picking up two yellow cards against Sundowns.

His absence could be an opportunity for the likes of Siphelo Baloni, who was not part of the match day squad at Loftus, while the versatile Thalente Mbatha could also feature. 

Key Players 

Evidence Makgopa (Orlando Pirates): The tall striker has tied down a regular starting spot for both club and country, and will be eager to stamp his mark on Saturday. Deceptively quick on the ground while posing a significant threat aerially, Makgopa will go into the match high in confidence after his contribution towards South Africa’s excellent AFCON run. 

Jabu Ndlovu (Crystal Lake): The player popularly known as “Xavi” has provided vital goals for the Mpumalanga outfit, and will be keen to make a name for himself against a high-profile opponent. Ndlovu netted the goal that secured Crystal Lake’s spot in the Nedbank Cup and has constantly featured on the scoresheet this year.

Head-to-Head 

This will be a historic occasion as the two sides cross paths for the first time in their history.

How to Watch Orlando Pirates vs Crystal Lake

The game kicks off at 15:00 and will be broadcast live on SuperSport PSL. You can stay in touch with the action as it happens by following live updates posted across Orlando Pirates’ social media platforms, including the Club’s official mobile app.

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