Benjani back again

BENJANI Mwaruwari always enjoys visiting South Africa and he is coming back on Thursday - but not for a holiday.

He will be here hoping to help Manchester City win the 10th instalment of the Vodacom Challenge.

"I'm looking forward to the trip to South Africa and my stay in that country always rekindles good memories of my spell at Cosmos," the 30-year-old Zimbabwean told Sowetan yesterday.

Mwaruwari won the 1999-2000 Premier Soccer League players' player and player of the season awards in the final year of his two-season spell at Ezenkosi. Manager Mark Hughes' City side open their account in this off-season tournament against Orlando Pirates at Peter Mokaba Stadium in Polokwane on Saturday. The kickoff is at 3pm.

They will then fly to Durban for a date with another Absa Premiership glamour side, Kaizer Chiefs, at King's Park Stadium on July 21 at 8.15pm. The third match of the tournament will see Chiefs and Pirates renew their rivalry in a floodlit Soweto derby at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth two days later. The final will be played at Loftus Stadium in Pretoria on July 25 at 3pm.

Mwaruwari, who regards Jomo Cosmos owner-coach Jomo Sono "as my father", admitted that it will not be a walk in the park for the wealthy Eastlands club against the local giants.

"The standard of football in South Africa has improved a lot and we expect difficult matches. Yes, I'm motivated (by the fact) that I used to play against Chiefs and Pirates while at Cosmos, but they are whole new teams now.

"I also train with Cosmos in South Africa in my holidays and I always enjoy my stay in the country," said Mwaruwari, whose contract at the Sky Blues expires in 2011.

The lanky forward says he has great respect for Bucs' midfield maestro Teko Modise.

But Modise fans will miss him after Pirates coach Rudi Krol decided to rest the midfielder; along with Katlego Mashego, Benson Mhlongo and Innocent Mdledle, who were part of the Confederations Cup last month.

Hughes is unlikely to have Brazilians Robinho and Elano for the tournament's opener on Saturday because they have been given extra recovery time after a hectic schedule in the Festival of Champions.

But the duo are likely to join them in the next matches alongside new signing Argentinian Carlos Tevez, who was recruited from Manchester United yesterday.