NFD focus switches to Nedbank Cup

The focus for National First Division (NFD) sides this week turns to qualification for the Nedbank Cup Last 32 with a full round of preliminary matches to be played on Wednesday.

The 16 NFD sides have been paired off to decide which eight will advance to the Nedbank Cup proper that starts in March, where they will join the 16 Premier League teams and eight qualifiers from the SAFA structures.

And there are some intriguing ties too, not least the visit of table-topping Thanda Royal Zulu to third-placed Stellenbosch FC.

Coaches often use this phase of the competition to give fringe players a run, but whether Thanda coach Roger Sikhakhane will want to break the momentum of a winning team remains to be seen.

Thanda have yet to taste defeat this season with eight wins and five draws in their 13 NFD matches, with comfortably the best defence in the second-tier.

Stellenbosch, who recently added 2009 Nedbank Cup finalist Steve Barker to their technical team, can get a morale-boosting win.

Barker was coach of University of Pretoria when he led the second-tier side to the Nedbank Cup final seven years ago.

Second-placed Royal Eagles will host inconsistent Milano United and seek to bounce back from a surprise 3-2 KwaZulu-Natal Derby loss to AmaZulu at the weekend.

Witbank Spurs are another form team but face a difficult away day at University of Pretoria, who have blown hot and cold this season, but are difficult to beat at the AmaTuks Stadium.

Mthatha Bucks have been another of the surprise packages this season, albeit on the back of seven draws from their 13 league games, but there must be a winner when they travel to Cape Town All Stars.

Santos will host AmaZulu with both teams under-performing by their standards so far this season, while Mbombela United entertain newly-promoted Real Kings.

Finally, Jomo Cosmos will expect a win when they travel to Limpopo to meet NFD strugglers Magesi FC. The teams met in the league at Cosmos this past Saturday, with Ezenkosi winning 2-1.