MTN8 no distraction for Birds

Moroka Swallows coach Zeca Marques says his side are fully focused on the league clash with AmaTuks
Moroka Swallows deny next weekend’s MTN8 final is a distraction for their players, but it is certainly in the minds of the coaching staff as they prepare to face University of Pretoria in an Absa Premiership clash at the Dobsonville Stadium on Friday night.

The Birds will take on SuperSport United in the MTN8 decider on September 22, hoping to go one better than their 2010 showing in the competition final when they lost on penalties to Orlando Pirates.

And while coach Zeca Marques says his side are fully focused on the visit of AmaTuks, his team selection is likely to suggest otherwise. And with R8-million in prize-money up for grabs, it is perhaps no surprise.

Marques has already stated that they may rest leading man Lerato Chabangu after his exertions with the national side that has seen him travel to Brazil and back, and also play against Mozambique on Tuesday.

It was a punishing schedule for the Bafana Bafana players and it would be no surprise were they to be leg weary. Swallows will want to make sure Chabangu is at 100 percent for the MTN8 game, so AmaTuks might get a reprieve.

It would leave the side light up front though, with Siyabonga Nomvete highly unlikely to feature given his toe injury. He too will not be risked unless he is 100 percent ready.

They might be light at the back too with central defender Ashraf Hendricks set to sit out to avoid a yellow card which would leave him suspended for the MTN8 final. Hendricks has already been cautioned in both of Swallows’ first two leagues games (against Platinum Stars and Ajax Cape Town), as well as the first leg of the MTN8 semifinal against Mamelodi Sundowns, which ended in a 3-3 draw. A fourth caution would leave him with an automatic one-match suspension.

But despite all this, Marques says his players are taking it one game at a time and not looking too far ahead.

“The MTN8 final is no distraction, we have got to play one game at a time and focus on the Premier League on Friday,” Marques told “We must play with commitment and I believe the players are professional enough to know that winning against AmaTuks is as important as winning in the MTN8 final.”

AmaTuks have made a solid start to the new season, winning away at Lamontville Golden Arrows and securing home draws against Maritzburg United and SuperSport United.

Coach Steve Barker will be very pleased with their first three games, especially as they have looked well organised and difficult to break down.

They have yet to hit their straps in the attacking third of the pitch, but for a newly-promoted side the first task is always to make yourself difficult to beat, rather than playing expansive, attacking football.