It was a case of so close yet so far for Downs, as they lost the top-eight final to Bidvest Wits, and later got derailed by Maritzburg United in their quest for the major PSL title.

Hlompho Kekana is not a man of many words.

But the disappointment in the voice of the Mamelodi Sundowns captain is almost palpable when he talks about losing the MTN8 Cup and the league championship last season.

“We came very close last season but couldn’t win. But as a team we’ve learned a lot from that experience.

“It’s the only outstanding trophy and it’s our responsibility to deliver it. “We’ve set it as one of our goals this season,” he said.

Together with his teammates, Kekana has a chance to go further this season and clinch the R8 million prize trophy, a competition they haven’t won in a decade.

To that end, though, they will first have to see off Maritzburg, whom they meet today in the last of the four MTN8 Cup quarterfinals matches at Lucas Moripe Stadium (3pm).

The Brazilians were widely thought to be have been focusing much on Caf Champions League at the time they faced Wits in the final, amid a hectic fixture schedule also involving the Absa Premiership campaign.

They may face a similar challenge this season with a potential clash of dates between the two-legged top-eight semifinal tie and the Champions League quarterfinals.

Said Kekana: “We had this programme last season and we did well under pressure. I think it’s going to be the same this year.

“As a team we really need to be in good shape and manage our squad well. We want to do well in every competition we take part in.

“Maritzburg can be dangerous, especially away from home. “We’ve seen two of their preseason matches and know how they play.

“We know their strengths and will prepare accordingly. “I’ve never won this trophy. I’ve always dreamt about winning it. The team also want it.”

United may have lost their inspirational skipper, Kurt Lentjies, who has since joined Chippa United.

But they still have powerful weapons to bring into the battle and achieve Kekana’s big dream.

Among the danger men they have on tap, there are influential midfielder Deolin Mekoa and striker Evans Rusike, who’s on the radar of several top clubs.

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