THE final before the final.
This was how journalists and club officials described the Orlando Pirates-Mamelodi Sundowns match-up in the quarterfinals of the Nedbank Cup.
The draw was conducted in Johannesburg yesterday and the coaches of the two Premiership giants - as well as the sponsor - would have loved to see the two sides meet in the May 22 final at Soccer City.
But fate has decided otherwise.
Their quarterfinal match is billed for Kings Park Stadium in Durban on Sunday.
Trott Moloto, Downs' interim coach, admitted that he would have preferred to face Pirates in the final rather than at this stage of the competition.
"I think everybody would have loved to see us playing against Pirates in the final. Playing against them in front of 94000 fans at Soccer City would have been good for everybody, even the sponsors. But it doesn't matter that we're playing them now because we'll be in the final," a confident Moloto said yesterday.
One of the reasons for the coach's optimism is that his charges are responding positively to his training methods.
"This match will get the best out of my players. The players are also starting to establish themselves. Esrom Nyandoro and Matthew Pattison are scoring goals and we are going back to the origins of Sundowns when the likes of Godfrey Sapula and Surprise Moriri would score if the strikers could not," he said.
Bucs coach Ruud Krol said past results will not matter when the two sides clash. In November, the last time the two met, the Brazilians ran riot and beat Bucs 2-0, courtesy of goals from Luvhengo Mungomeni and Benedict Vilakazi. "We were not in the best shape when we played them but we are starting the match at 0-0 and we have a chance," Krol said.
Krol and The Ghost will rely on in-form goalkeeper Senzo Meyiwa to keep a clean slate against Downs, who will hope that Mungomeni finds the net against Pirates.