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Absa Champions Take On Mighty Maulers 09/03/05
Defending Absa Cup Champions Moroka Swallows take on Manning Rangers tonight in a Last 16 Absa Cup tie at the Chatsworth Stadium.

Tonight's game, is of course a repeat of last season's Cup final, which the Soweto side won after coming back from an early goal from Keryn Jordan to win 3-1.

The men on the scoresheet that day for Swallows were Lungisani Ndlela, Samuel Ngobeni and Dennis Lota. Ndlela has since moved on to SuperSport and the evergreen Lota has come to the fore since then, scoring some vital goals for the team, a feat which coach Gavin Hunt will be hoping he repeats tonight.

Gary McNab is likely to partner Lota upfront, especially with Alois Ngwerume looking doubtful to play after picking up a knock at training this week. A decision on Ngwerume's fitness will be taken later today.

Right back Peter Petersen is still out injured, opening the way for Ashley Opperman to take to the field following his return from suspension, while Zimbabwean winger Edzai Kasinauyo is also fit again.

With McNab playing up front in recent games, Warren Lewis has formed a solid central defensive partnership with Mohammed Ouseb and the pair will need to be on top of their game tonight to keep out the hungry Rangers strikers.

"We have never had it easy against Rangers," said Lewis. "Matches between the two of us have always been very close." 

"Obviously they would have been lifted by their win against Sundowns on the weekend, and tonight's game is not going to be easy."

Former Pirates and Chiefs striker Phumlani Mhkize seems to have found his feet in Durban, and put in a match winning performance on Saturday. Mhkize, along with the likes of Linos Chalwe and Grant Igesund, will keep Lewis and his fellow defenders on their toes tonight.

"Yeah, Mhkize's obviously a quality performer with lots of experience. He seems to be in good form at the moment and can obviously be a danger if allowed the space to play," said Lewis.

"Alton Meiring is a quality striker and we will obviously be wary of him, but we will need to keep an eye on guys like Linos Chalwe and Edson Minga, who can also be dangerous."

Rangers' new coach Simon Ngomane got off to a fine start last weekend when the Maulers surprised Mamelodi Sundowns with a 1-0 win.

Not only was this a timely confidence booster, but there were also a number of plus factors to emerge from the game. Rangers' defence has been the Achilles heel of the side this season, having conceded 35 goals in 23 league matches. but on Saturday it was a different story as the centre back pairing of Dazzy Kapenya and Francosi Mpessa, along with goal keeper Chad Harpur, put in a fine display to keep the dangerous Brazilians at bay.

The young Thabiso Hlalele, playing out of position at left back, has also been catching the eye in recent weeks and looks set for a bright future, while midfield anchor man, Mxolisi Mchunu, recently acquired from Santos, looks to be an excellent addition to the team, adding much-needed steel in the engine room.

Veteran Frank Makua also showed that he still has what it takes to take a game by the scruff on the neck and could end up being Ngomane's trump card.

On paper this is a very different Rangers side to the one which Swallows beat in last year's final and tonight's battle promises to be an intriguing affair between the two sides. Both will be aware that this competition presents their last realistic chance of silverware this season, which should certainly add to the intensity of the match.

The game kicks off at 19H30 at the Chatsworth Stadium.

By Anthony McLennan


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