The residents of Tembisa on the East Rand will be able to look on with plenty of pride this weekend as Lerato Chabangu and George Maluleka go head-to-head in the MTN8 final.
Moroka Swallows’ Chabangu and SuperSport United’s Maluleka, both Tembisa natives, have been lighting up the Premier Soccer League this season, with both earning call-ups at the start of the month to Gordon Igesund’s Bafana Bafana squad.
The pair are also testament to the development facilities at the University of Pretoria, where both started their footballing careers.
Chabangu is slightly longer in the tooth than his SuperSport counterpart, but is enjoying an Indian summer aged 27, in scintillating form after seemingly overcoming his off-field issues.
A talent frequently disrupted by extra-curricular difficulties in a long spell at Sundowns, Chabangu has provided the impetus for some devastating Moroka Swallows attacking play this season.
Chabangu, who can play on the wing or behind the main striker, has three goals already, including a double against the Brazilians in the second leg of the MTN8 semi-final.
Last season, Chabangu’s career was revitalised by Igesund as he helped Swallows finish second in the Premiership. And he seems to have stepped up another level in the new campaign under new Birds coach Zeca Marques.
Swallows’ turnaround during the past two seasons was remarkable, given that they just scrambled clear of relegation in the 2010/11 campaign.
“Let me clarify one thing,” said Chabangu this week, “the Swallows players have put Swallows on top of the map, from relegation to second place last season, and now to the cup final.
“It shows the effort we have put in for two years.
“We have to be rewarded with something, but it won’t be easy – we have to put in the effort.”
The Swallows star, meanwhile, thoroughly enjoyed his two Bafana games, starting against both Mozambique and Brazil.
“It was a great return… the coach just knows me and I know him,” he said.
“He just told me to relax and play my game, then everything will come.
“I just applied myself and went with the flow.”
Chabangu also had a spell at SuperSport under Gavin Hunt, so he knows to expect a tough game with Matsatsantsa tonight.
“SuperSport are a good club, you can’t take that away from them,” said Chabangu.
“They will be difficult to beat, but we have to apply ourselves and stay focused.”
Maluleka, now 23, has returned to SuperSport after three seasons at Ajax Cape Town, having signed for Matsatsantsa from Tuks in 2007.
His form for SuperSport in the new campaign has earned rave reviews, and many felt he was unlucky to be left out of Igesund’s original Bafana squad.
But an injury to Steven Pienaar gave him the chance of some game time as a substitute against Mozambique.
SuperSport coach Hunt, however, has warned that he wants more from his mobile midfielder.
“I had George as a kid and then he went to Ajax and they reinvented him there… after some period of time,” said Hunt this week.
“They played him as a right back, a right midfielder, a striker, a second striker, and eventually found him in midfield, which is where his game is based.
“He’s done well, but he knows for me he needs to step it up a level if he wants to be competitive with what is in SA.
“He’s got a foot in with the national team but he needs to kick on and score goals, create goals and play the final ball, which is what we need. And the work rate – I’m sure he’ll give it to us. He is a fantastic signing for the club.”
Born: August 15, 1985, Tembisa
Position: Second striker/
Previous clubs: University of Pretoria, Mamelodi Sundowns, SuperSport United
Born: Jan 7, 1989, Tembisa
Position: Central midfield
Previous clubs: University of Pretoria, Ajax Cape Town
MTN8 FINAL: Moroka Swallows v SuperSport United (Orlando Stadium, 8.15pm today)