There is nothing as glorious as holding aloft a trophy. Mamelodi Sundowns know that – they have done it before. On Saturday, they will be within sniffing distance of the Telkom Knockout trophy when they take on Supersport United at the Lucas Moripe Stadium in the second semi-final of the Telkom Knockout.
This Tswhane Derby has dished out far more exciting football than the Derby south of the Jukskei River and the fans know it. Not once have they played to a draw. It has always been a game of goals and sometimes good fortune has given one side the victory.
But this time, it will not be about fortune. It will be about meticulous planning – both Sundowns mentor Pitso Mosimane and his brains trust and Gordon Igesund and his technical team are tacticians of the highest order.
Igesund has already tried the mind game by declaring that Sundowns are headed for the league championship. Sundowns have not taken the bait and know that they will have to work hard against their neighbours.
This much, Mosimane admitted in the post-match interview following his side’s 1 – 0 victory over Chippa United midweek. He has noted Supersport’s ability to convert free kicks, and would have worked on countering this. He has admitted that Supersport’s dangermen – Jeremy Brockie and Michael Boxall will need to be watched closely in the aerial battles. But he has said that he is also wary of Thuso Phala on the wing and the overlapping of Sibusiso Khumalo.
Sundowns are on a winning streak, having gone six games without loss, while Supersport have just come out of a slump which has seen them lingering in the wrong half of the league table standings on 12th, with only 10 points. But they have scored some notable wins – against Golden Arrows and Chippa United, and have drawn against Free State Stars and Bloemfontein Celtic.
But everyone knows that Cup games are a different matter altogether and previous results are seldom a reliable indicator of a possible outcome.
Indeed, while Sundowns are ahead on the head-to-head record, they will know that they have previously been shocked in Cup games, including that memorable 2 – 0 victory for Supersport in the Nedbank final at Orlando Stadium.
Captain Ramahlwe Mphahlele put in a man-of-the-match performance against Chippa and also admitted that this derby is going to be a crucial test for his side. Having disposed of Chippa, he said that they could now turn their focus on Supersport, which is what they have been doing since their return from the Eastern Cape. He will most likely be charged with taking care of Phala, whose dazzling speed has often created opportunities for Brockie. In the event of a switch play, Tebogo Langerman will likely take care of Phala. But both men have to be wary of Phala’s speed.
Mosimane will ponder whether to start with Anthony Laffor, who has proved far more effective coming on as a substitute. Laffor has scored crucial goals for Mosimane, but it will be a matter of who he pairs him with – and what formation he takes into this game.
Hlompho Kekana has been running his shoes into the ground in his role supporting the last line, but it seems that all that is required is for Teko Modise to strike form – and dish out the passes to Themba Zwane and Keagan “Double” Dolly, who has proved one of the best acquisitions for Sundowns in a long time.
There’s got to be a winner on Saturday, so both coaches will look to ending it within regulation time to avoid the lotto of penalties.