Rothmans Cup Draw Announced

Soccer's big guns face tough opening matches in the Rothmans Cup first round, with defending champions Kaizer Chiefs and Sundowns both drawn away.

Chiefs travel to Cape Town to meet Hellenic in what will be a test of character for the Amakhosi against a side who are tough to beat at home.

"I don't think it will be a big problem for us playing before a crowd who no doubt will give their full support to the home team. But I always say that if you are a good team you will be more determined to do well away from home," Chiefs caretaker coach Jacob Sepoa said after the draw was made in Johannesburg on Monday. Chiefs have won the lucrative competition twice, and Sepoa concedes they will be under pressure to retain the trophy yet again.

"It is in the nature of things that the champions will always have to play above themselves at all times if they want to win. It will be a challenge for us, but as it is a knockout competition we cannot afford to waste any chances the way we did against Wits on Saturday."

Chiefs were held to a goalless draw by Wits University in a Premiership match, and Sepoa blames his attack for failing to make use of their openings.

"We are training hard and the players are showing great commitment, but we must take our chances if we want to do well in competitions like the Rothmans Cup. Not taking them as we did against Wits can cost us."

Sundowns have a date with Bush Bucks and were given early warning to expect a hot reception when they travel to Umtata.

"We have the team who can certainly take out any side in South Africa. Bush Bucks are a different side to last year and will be ready for Sundowns," club boss Sturu Pasiya said.

"We meet them today (Monday) and this match will be a dress rehearsal for what they can expect from us. They will see what we are made of."

The sides meet in a Premiership fixture at Odi Stadium in Pretoria on Monday afternoon. Pasiya said a number of players were placed on transfer and "we have roped in seven new players which we hope will make us more competitive than we were last season". He thanked cup sponsors for their financial backing of soccer and called on the government to review its Tobacco Bill, which aims to limit sponsorship from tobacco companies and cigarette ads at major sports events.

"They should reconsider this bill as competitions like Rothmans Cup give soccer much-needed financial support," he said.

Orlando Pirates, however, should have a relatively easy passage to the next round against Moroka Swallows when they meet in Johannesburg at the weekend of August 28-29. The Birds, who were relegation candidates last season, have promised to do better this time around, but in the final analysis they will have to draw on every ounce of energy to outwit a talent-packed Pirates unit. Jomo Cosmos have a tricky hurdle when they host Ajax Cape Town in Johannesburg, but spokesperson Ndubuza Majola was upbeat about the Ezenkosi's chances against a side who has not had much good fortune this season thus far.

"(Coach) Jomo Sono is working hard to win a major trophy this year and this may well be the one. We intend to do well in the Rothmans Cup and our objective is to end in the top eight in the league," Majola said.

"Ajax have been losing matches and that could cause us trouble as they will be determined to bounce back, so we will have to be on our guard and expect a tough clash against them."

Manning Rangers entertain Mother City, formerly Cape Town Spurs, in Durban and they should be fancied to beat the Cape side. It will be a much tougher call for AmaZulu against Free State Stars in Qwa Qwa, while Wits have a home tie against Bloemfontein Celtic which could also go down to the wire.

Newcomers Classic could exit the competition early in the first round when they come up against fancied Supersport United in Tembisa.

Premier Soccer League (PSL) spokesperson Andrew Dipela said the first round looked interesting. "I am sure the clubs will be pleased with it (the draw)."

He said venues and times for the matches had still to be finalised and would be announced later. The draw is (home teams first):

Bush Bucks v Sundowns
Hellenic v Kaizer Chiefs 
Moroka Swallows v Orlando Pirates
Manning Rangers v Mother City
Jomo Cosmos v Ajax Cape Town
Free State Stars v AmaZulu
Wits University v Bloemfontein Celtic
Classic v Supersport United.
- Sapa