Will AmaZulu dish out the Royal AM treatment?

Augustine Kwem will be the man to watch for AmaZulu tonight after he scored a brace in their last game against Royal AM. Photo: BackpagePix

Augustine Kwem will be the man to watch for AmaZulu tonight after he scored a brace in their last game against Royal AM. Photo: BackpagePix

Published Feb 22, 2024

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Tonight’s KZN derby between AmaZulu and Royal AM will be a high-stakes clash, with both seeking redemption after recent Premiership lapses.

The Nedbank Cup round-of-32 encounter takes place at King Zwelithini Stadium in uMlazi (7pm kick-off).

Royal AM played out a goalless draw at home to Kaizer Chiefs on Sunday at the Harry Gwala Stadium in Pietermaritzburg.

Disappointingly, they had only one shot on target throughout the match.

AmaZulu are still licking their wounds after a 3-1 defeat against struggling Cape Town Spurs on Saturday.

AmaZulu enjoyed the lion’s share of possession at the Athlone Stadium, but were unable to capitalise on it.

Their Spanish coach, Pablo Franco Martin, has called on his players to improve their performances against their KZN rivals today.

“We are not at our best at this moment. We need to understand that this is a knockout game and (that there is) no way back,” said Martin.

“It is going to be a game which may not be decided in 90 minutes, but (in) 120 or even a penalty shoot-out.

“We will try to do our best and fight for the win. We are trying to be better.

“If we keep on doing like that, I will be happy.

“We need to be realistic. AmaZulu is now a better team than a few months ago, and this is what we are trying to do.

“Sometimes results don’t go our way, but we want to keep going with the process of improving this team and the players, which is what we are doing.”

Martin feels AmaZulu have lost their momentum because of the Africa Cup of Nations break, and that fitness levels have dropped.

However, he believes if the side passes this round-of-32 hurdle, Usuthu will be in better shape in the next round.

“The problem now after the break is that we are not at the same level that we used to be. This game is coming soon, because this game is crucial for us to win before playing Mamelodi Sundowns next Tuesday,” said Martin.

“When we reach the last-16 round, we will be in a better shape.

“I think we are going to have our chances, like we did in the Carling Knockout. If we can convert them, we can go far.

“If we can reach our best level again soon and keep improving the way we have been in the first part of the season, I think we are capable of beating any team in the country.”

Royal AM coach John Maduka feels the Nedbank Cup will be the club’s last chance for glory this season.

“It is the one cup that’s left in the league (SA season). It is a cup we’d love to do well in, and hopefully take it,” said Maduka.

“There is definitely an opportunity for us to go all out. For us to go all out, we need to take it one game at a time.”

The two players to watch are Augustine Chidi Kwem of AmaZulu and Menzi Masuku of Royal AM.

Nigerian striker Kwem scored a brace the last time the two sides met in late December. There will be an expectation for him to replicate the form that was shown in that fixture.

Masuku, the former Orlando Pirates midfielder, came close to scoring in the KZN outfit’s previous match against Chiefs, and has posed a threat to several opposition defenders.

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