The Soweto derby attracts all the glamour. Tshwane, however, is where the powerhouses of local soccer reside. On Saturday night, title-hopefuls Mamelodi Sundowns do battle with three-time Absa Premiership champions SuperSport United at the Lucas Masterpieces Moripe Stadium at 8.15pm.
Orlando Pirates, Kaizer Chiefs and perhaps even Ajax Cape Town will have designs on lifting the PSL trophy at the end of the season, but the odds must be high that it could well end up in Pretoria again.
Could this be Sundowns’ season? The big-spenders have failed over the last few years to find the right recipe for success, but with the array of stars they have assembled, surely they have to get it right at some stage?
The Brazilians have a 100 percent record thus far, thanks to 2-0 wins over both Moroka Swallows and Platinum Stars, and victory over Matsatsantsa would certainly provide them with a psychological edge.
‘Downs indeed had the upper hand over United last season in the league, drawing the first round game 1-1 (Katelgo Mphela and Anthony Laffor both converting from the penalty spot) and winning the second round match 1-0 thanks to a goal from defender Luvhengo Mungomeni.
SuperSport coach Gavin Hunt has done outstandingly to ensure that the ongoing exodus of his top players has not inhibited the team’s success.
Sundowns have never been shy to raid their city neighbours for talent – Bafana striker Mphela and Mozambique winger Elias Pelembe being two recent examples – but the departure of last season’s Absa Premiership Player of the Season Daine Klate to Pirates could prove to be one blow too many.
“If you look though at the team which did duty against Aces recently and the side which played Aces four months ago, there are seven different players – I’ve only been at SuperSport for three years and we have turned over a lot of players,” said SuperSport coach Hunt.
He has high hopes for Lyle Lakay and Damien Mitchell, two budding stars in his squad.
Whether youngsters such as Lakay, Mitchell and Kermit Erasmus can team up with more seasoned players such as Dipsy Selolwane, Fikru Tefera and Glen Salmon (currently injured – he had an operation on Wednesday ) to get the goals to fire them to honours is a question that can only be answered over the course of the season.
Sundowns will, though, provide a good indication of whether these players have the BMT (big match temperament) required. Further set-backs for Hunt are that Brent Carelse is suspended while Bradley Carnell and Thabo September are injured. “The players are up for it and they will be looking for an improvement – they know they haven’t performed as they should this season. Sundowns, though, are well coached, well-structured, they have the nucleus of their squad from last season and its going to be tough one for us,” said Hunt.
Sundowns meanwhile have a potentially lethal strike-force – Mphela is quickly proving himself to be of the highest calibre, and then there is Surprise Moriri, Mabuthi Khenyeza and Richard Henyekane, not to mention Zimbabwean marksman Nyasha Mushekwi, who netted both goals against Swallows.
Lebohang Mokoena is another player that could prove to be a thorn in the side of SuperSport.
The former Pirates winger-cum-striker wants his side to make it three wins out of three.
“This is an important game for us. We’ve started well and want to keep the momentum and the winning mentality going.
“Whoever plays on Saturday, they know the mandate is – that is to get the three points,” said Mokoena.
He claims that he and his team-mates are not intimidated by SuperSport’s status as league champions for the last three seasons.
“It’s a different ball game and a different season – we don’t know what Gavin Hunt has got planned and he doesn’t know what we have planned.”-
The rest of Absa Premiership’s fixtures are: Friday, September 17: Ajax Cape Town v Platinum Stars (Cape Town Stadium, 7.30pm).
Saturday, September 18: BidVest Wits University v Orlando Pirates (BidVest Wits), Free State Stars v Vasco da Gama (Botshabelo), kaizer Chiefs v Bloemfontein Celtic (Rand, 6pm)
Sunday, September 19: AmaZulu v Moroka Swallows (Moses Mabhida) and Mpumalanga Black Aces v Santos (Puma Rugby). Kick-Off for all these matches is at 3pm, unless stated-Story by Backagepix