11.03.2018 19:25 h

Maritzburg snatch cup victory after lightning terror

Terrified Maritzburg United coach Fadlu Davids successfully begged the referee to halt play because of lightning before his team won a South African FA Cup last-16 tie Sunday.

Top-flight club United were drawing 1-1 with second-tier Royal Eagles after 82 minutes in Indian Ocean port city Durban when lightning lit the dark grey sky.

The storm spread terror among Maritzburg players and coaches as one of their squad is recovering in hospital after being struck by lightning during a practice match this month.

Lightning causes many deaths annually in South Africa, especially in rural areas when shelter from storms is not immediately available.

Play resumed after almost a one-hour delay and a late goal earned 10-man Maritzburg a 2-1 victory and a place in the quarter-finals.

When lightning appeared over the Princess Magogo Stadium, Davids pleaded frantically from the touchline with the referee to suspend play.

The appeal was heeded and play resumed on a waterlogged pitch only when the storm had passed.

"I pleaded nicely with the referee to stop play because the safety of the players was my primary concern," Davids said.

"When we saw the lightning, our thoughts turned to one of our players who was recently struck as he sought safety from a storm.

"I visit Luyanda (Ntshangase) in hospital daily and we dedicate this victory to him. My team were fantastic warriors in very emotional circumstances."

Maritzburg had captain and defender Bevan Fransman sent off just before Deolin Mekoa gave them the lead in first half stoppage-time.

Senegalese Mame Niang levelled from a 70th-minute penalty awarded for a foul by Siyanda Xulu, who spent three seasons with Russian club Rostov.

Xulu atoned on 89 minutes with his glancing header from a Mekoa corner earning Maritzburg a place in the draw for the last eight.

Top flight club Bloemfontein Celtic scored twice in the final four minutes to defeat second division strugglers Richards Bay 3-1 in rain-lashed central South Africa.

Goals by Neo Maema and Kabelo Dlamini ensured there would not be a shock result after Mpho Maruping had put Celtic ahead just before half-time.

Baroka, Free State Stars, Kaizer Chiefs and second-tier Ubuntu Cape Town have also secured places in the quarter-finals draw.

Former African champions Mamelodi Sundowns host third-tier Eastern Cape Bees Tuesday and Cape Town City meet Orlando Pirates 24 hours later in the pick of the last-16 ties.