Men who could swing the Nedbank Cup final

Moeneeb Josephs of Bidvest Wits. ©Gavin Barker/BackpagePix

As the curtain officially falls on the 2013/14 Absa Premiership season, Orlando Pirates and Bidvest Wits lock horns in the Nedbank Cup final.

The country’s version of England’s FA Cup gives winners a chance to play in the continent’s Caf Confederation Cup.

Wits, by virtue of finishing third, will compete in the Caf Champions League, while Pirates will play in the Confederation Cup.

This though does not mean tonight’s final at Moses Mabhida is not significant.

History has shown that finals between the two sides are never poor matches, and have often proved to be classics.

Here Saturday Citizen looks at the men who can influence the destiny of the trophy.

Moeneeb Josephs (Bidvest Wits)

The Bidvest goalkeeper would have been forgiven if he had quit football early this year.

This was after Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula singled him out as the weakest link during Bafana Bafana’s early exit in the Chan tournament in Cape Town.

Mbalula described the former Pirates goalkeeper as an “embarrassment”, but the slight seems to have reignited the love of the game in Josephs.

The former Ajax Cape Town player has been a vital cog in Gavin Hunt’s side in a season which saw them challenge for the PSL title only to falter towards the end.

As Josephs is expected to play a leading role in seeing the Clever Boys lift a trophy this season when they face Pirates tonight.

Sibusiso Vilakazi (Bidvest Wits)

Without Vilakazi, Wits look ordinary. But with Vilakazi in the starting line-up they turn into a mean machine.

The midfielder has been influential for Hunt’s side this season with his searing runs and trickery. Many PSL sides know the only way to silence Wits’ threat is by neutralising Vilakazi. Vilakazi is the Clever Boys’ source of creativity and if not looked after, he will torment Pirates.

Wits’ play revolves around the 23-year-old midfielder. As the club’s most prized asset, pressure to deliver is inevitable. But in the past, Vilakazi has proved he is a player for the big stage and big crowds do not frighten him. Expect him to be the one to help Wits deliver the Nedbank Cup to their trophy cabinet.

Senzo Meyiwa (Orlando Pirates)

Leading up to today’s final, Pirates assistant coach Eric Tinkler reminded the nation how good Meyiwa is.

Tinkler singled out the Caf Champions League tournament as one which revealed Meyiwa’s true talents. Saving penalties against big continental sides such as Democratic Republic of Congo’s TP Mazembe and Egyptian giants Al-Ahly away from home, showed how mature Meyiwa is as a goalkeeper.

In fact, he was the reason his opposite number Josephs left the Sea Robbers for Wits.

Meyiwa’s meteoric rise to the Pirates goalkeeping throne has seen him able to fend off a challenge from Ghana’s No 1 keeper Fatau Dauda, who will play for his country in this year’s World Cup but the West African has struggled to depose Meyiwa.

If Meyiwa brings his A game tonight, he will be the one standing between Wits and a win.

Oupa Manyisa (Orlando Pirates)

Whenever the midfield dynamo touches the ball, the Bucs faithful roar “Aaaaaaaace! This signifies the impact the diminutive player has in the heart of midfield for the Sea Robbers.

When midfield partner Andile Jali left the country, expectations were that Manyisa would struggle. But that has not been the case as, instead, the player has played his best football. Pirates’ season of losing three finals could have called on their players to change their style of play and approach to their game but Manyisa has remained his true self. He is a player with no frills and thrills and gets the job done.

This is what makes him the special player which every Pirates coach dreams about.

Vladimir Vermezovic started by switching Pirates players from their original positions, but this has not been the case with Manyisa. As he comes up against Wits’ Vilakazi tonight, his international experience may see him overcome.

He is the right player to silence Vilakazi and if he manages that, he will hand the trophy to his side.

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