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Football | Absa Premiership

Highlands welcome wounded Maritzburg



Highlands Park are set to host Maritzburg United in an Absa Premiership game at the Makhulong Stadium in Johannesburg on Sunday.

Kick-off is at 3.30pm.

The Lions of the North were booted out of the Nedbank Cup by Free State Stars, who won 2-0 in Bethlehem last weekend.

However, Highlands had defeated Stars 1-0 away in a league game thanks to Mothobi Mvalo's late goal a fortnight ago.

The win came as a relief for the Lions of the North as it ended their six-match winless run in the league.

Highlands are placed 15th on the league standings with 17 points from 20 matches. They are only a point behind 13th-placed Bloemfontein Celtic.

Veteran Zimbabwean shot-stopper Tapuwa Kapini remains Highlands coach Gordon Igesund's first-choice goalkeeper and one of the key players.

Kapini, 32, has urged his teammates to show character against the Team of Choice as they look to avoid relegation to the National First Division (NFD).

“In our league match against Stars, everybody showed character and just wanted it more. We wanted to win," Kapini said.

“The same should apply against Maritzburg on Sunday. They can be beaten.

“We don’t want to go back to the NFD. We want to stay in the elite division. This team have what it takes to survive the axe with the last 10 league games remaining," he added.

“We just need to make sure we win most of them, that’s all.”

Meanwhile, Maritzburg were also knocked out of the Nedbank Cup after losing 3-1 to Golden Arrows with Lebohang Maboe netting for the former in Durban last weekend.

The Team of Choice had also lost 1-0 away to their provincial rivals Arrows in a league game two weeks ago.

This was Maritzburg's third defeat in their last five league matches. But before they faced Arrows, they had defeated Free State Stars at home.

Maritzburg are placed 10th on the league standings with 23 points from 20 matches. They are two points behind eighth-placed Platinum Stars.

It has been a breakthrough season for promising midfielder Bandile Shandu, who is one of Maritzburg coach Roger De Sa's regulars.

Shandu, 22, says the Team of Choice are targeting maximum points against Highlands in order to move back into the top eight on the league table.

“We also need three points. We have set goals for ourselves this season and we aim to achieve them," Shandu said.

“The top eight is our main priority. We will have a go at Highlands with the aim of returning with three points.

“I know it’s going to be a test for us but we are ready for the battle both mentally and physically."

When Highlands and Maritzburg met in the first-round league game, the two sides played to a 1-1 stalemate at the Harry Gwala Stadium four months ago.

Devon Saal put the Team of Choice into the lead, but Mpho Sitayitayi levelled matters for the Lions of the North.



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