Bongani Mafu and his Highlanders men will be under severe scrutiny this afternoon to see if they can help Bosso extend their Chibuku Super Cup dominance when they meet How Mine in a quarter-final match at Barbourfields Stadium.
BY SPORTS REPORTER
Highlanders boast of a glittering history in this tournament which is the oldest knockout competition in Zimbabwe.
They have five Chibuku Cup titles, having claimed the first one back in 1973 with the likes of Bruce Grobbelaar, Tymon Mabaleka (late), Boetie van As, Josiah Nxumalo, Ananias Ncube and captain Lawrence “Lofty” Phiri starring.
Another all-star class of 1990 that closed their haul of the trophy had Peter and Adam Ndlovu, Willard “Mashinkila” Khumalo, Peter Nkomo and was captained by Fanuel Dube.
Bosso were back last season to attempt an extension of their supremacy in this Cup, but then caretaker coach Mark Mathe oversaw a 3-0 thumping by Harare City in the semi-finals to bow out in humiliating fashion.
Now Mafu is in the picture with the bulk of players who succumbed to losing finalists, City, last term.
“We just want to do well in this Cup, but we have to beat How Mine first. At this stage, I would not want to talk about us dominating this Cup or reaching the final because there is How Mine to worry about. We will take it step by step,” Mafu said.
Highlanders were by yesterday fretting over the unavailability of forwards Knox Mutizwa and Obadiah Tarumbwa, as well as defenders Erick Mudzingwa and Douglas Sibanda due to injuries and illness.
But How Mine are facing a similar predicament with Benjamin Marere, Mgcini Sibanda, Leftara Ndale and Morris Kadzola out injured.
Also doubtful for the contest are Menard Mupera, Nelson Tachi and Timothy January whom coach Luke “Vahombe” Masomere said were yet to pass fitness tests by late yesterday.
“I do not want to cry over these injuries to senior players. We are ready for the game as we are. I am very much confident we will play a good game,” Masomere said.
But Masomere will be enjoying the return from injury of Lewis Matawu, Tawanda Muparati, Devon Chafa and Nyasha Mukumbi.
“This is a big game for us simply because we are playing against giants. I do not want to promise any result. We are just looking forward to progress to the next stage of this tournament,” he said.
Masomere will have on his bench teenage forward Adolf Muganyi, son to former Railstars and Highlanders player Akim Muganyi.
Meanwhile, another potentially fierce confrontation is on the cards at Rufaro Stadium where CAPS United and ZPC Kariba clash in the same tournament.
More attention, however, will be on veteran ZPC coach Sunday Chidzambwa who appears to be struggling with the modern game following his return to the local Premier Soccer League after a 16-year absence.
Chidzambwa has been winless in the four matches he has taken charge at ZPC so far, losing thrice and drawing once in league matches.
The former Warriors coach, however, appears unperturbed by the bad spell.
“That is very normal in football. It happens everywhere in the world,” Chidzambwa said.
He is now taking aim at CAPS whom he, however, says he respects.
“Preparations for this game went very well and we are ready. We are going to play hard for a positive result. We will fight for the entire 90 minutes and get a good result. CAPS are a very good side, so it is not going to be an easy match,” he said.
ZPC Kariba arrived in Harare yesterday without injured vice-captain Tawanda Munyanduri as well as goalkeeper Liberty Chirava.
Chidzambwa will field returning veteran forward Limited Chikafa as well as unleashing mid-season acquisition, defender Thomas Sweswe.
“We have travelled with them. They will add a bit of experience to our team. They are very vital, especially considering the calibre of the team we are facing,” Chidzambwa said.
CAPS United coach Mathe will be out to avoid last year’s embarrassment by Harare City when he was caretaker coach of Highlanders.