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MTN8 quarterfinals - Match-by-Match Guide

South Africa's domestic season officially kicks-off on Friday with the start of the MTN8 competition, a lucrative eight-team dash to an R8-million (approximately US$600,000) first prize.

The competition features the top eight teams from last season's league table, with number one playing eight, second taking on seventh and so on.

The quarterfinal games are played over a single leg, the semifinals over two and the final also a single game. 

KweséESPN provides all you need to know about the opening round of matches this weekend.

FRIDAY

BIDVEST WITS VS. GOLDEN ARROWS
Venue & time: BidVest Stadium - 20h00 

Wits are not only the league champions but also the MTN8 holders after they thumped Mamelodi Sundowns 3-0 in last year's decider and are seeking to become just the third club after Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates to retain the title.

They have added considerable quality to their squad since then without losing much themselves, and this match could serve as a debut for former Bafana Bafana captain Steven Pienaar's return to the Premier Soccer League.

Golden Arrows snuck into the top eight last season on the final day of the campaign and are a hard-working side, but one that possess nowhere near the firepower of their opponents. Wits have been dominant in past meetings between the clubs though, claiming 17 wins in the 29 previous clashes, with Arrows winning only five.    

Golden Arrows are appearing in the MTN8 for the first time since they lifted the trophy in 2009, beating Ajax Cape Town 6-0 in the final at the Orlando Stadium.    

SATURDAY  

CAPE TOWN CITY VS. POLOKWANE CITY
Venue & time: Cape Town Stadium - 15h00

The debut as a head coach for Benni McCarthy, who was arguably South Africa's greatest ever player, but has plenty to prove in the dug-out for Cape Town City. He has promised a change of style and to surprise many with his selections, which is in keeping with his personality ... he is not one to simply conform to the norms, but will impose his own beliefs on the team.

The home side have also done well in the transfer market, bringing in veteran Teko Modise and the wayward, but talented, Ayanda Patosi.

Polokwane City will run for the 90 minutes and possess a physical edge, but not the same quality as their hosts.

Polokwane finished sixth in the Premier League in the last campaign, and enter the MTN8 for the first time in their history.

Cape Town City only lost two of their 19 home games in all competitions last season, and both were surprise results. They went down 2-1 to Baroka FC and were thumped 4-0 by Platinum Stars, both in the league.

Polokwane were victorious on the road on just three occasions last season, at Maritzburg United, Platinum Stars and Free State Stars, all in the league.

KAIZER CHIEFS VS. SUPERSPORT UNITED
Venue & time: Moses Mabhida Stadium - 20h15

Kaizer Chiefs and their coach Steve Komphela go in search of some elusive silverware again after two barren seasons that has placed the latters' job on the line.

They face a tough quarterfinal here against Nedbank Cup holders SuperSport United, who have the quality to hurt them under their new coach Eric Tinkler.

Tinkler was in charge of Cape Town City when they beat Chiefs at the quarterfinal stage of this competition last season.

Chiefs fans have been searching for answers as to their recent trophyless run, but the honest truth is their squad is just not good enough and they have moved behind the likes of Mamelodi Sundowns, BidVest Wits and possibly even SuperSport and Cape Town City.

Both previous clashes between Chiefs and SuperSport in the MTN8 competition came in finals, with SuperSport victorious in 2004 thanks to a Phil Evans penalty, and Chiefs gaining revenge two years later as Rotson Kilambe scored the only goal of the game.

In matches in all competitions played at Chiefs, the record is a close one. In 32 games, Chiefs have won 14 and SuperSport 12, with six draws.

SuperSport have exited the MTN8 at the quarterfinal stage in seven of the last eight seasons. The odd one out was when they reached the final in 2012 under then coach Gavin Hunt, but were surprise 2-1 losers to Moroka Swallows.    

SUNDAY  

MAMELODI SUNDOWNS VS. MARITZBURG UNITED
Venue & time: Lucas Moripe Stadium - 15h00

Mamelodi Sundowns have enjoyed much trophy success in the last decade, winning everything on offer domestically ... except the MTN8. 

They were beaten finalists again last year as they went down 3-0 to BidVest Wits, and it has been their traditional slow start to the new campaign that has cost them before that.

They have had a month's break since their last competitive fixture in the CAF Champions League, giving something of a rest to their tired legs. Sundowns have been involved in 102 matches in all competitions in the last two seasons.

Maritzburg have appointed exciting young coach Fadlu Davids after he impressed in a caretaker capacity at the end of last season. The loss of their talisman in midfielder, and all-time record club scorer Kurt Lentjies, leaves a hole they have not convincingly filled yet.

United are appearing in the tournament for just the second time in their history, having previously competed in the 2015 campaign. There they lost their quarterfinal 5-3 to Kaizer Chiefs after extra-time.

Sundowns have largely dominated the head-to-head with Maritzburg down the years. Their 25 previous meetings have yielded 16 wins to just four for United, with the other five games drawn.

The last eight meetings in all competitions have produced three Sundowns wins and all five of those draws though, as United have found it easier to hold their opponents in the recent past. 

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