Johannesburg – Mamelodi Sundowns and Ajax Cape Town kick off this year’s edition of the Nedbank Cup in a repeat of last year’s opening match, as the two prepare to square-off at the Athlone Stadium in Cape Town on Friday.
The draw for the round of 32 threw up some exciting ties, with Sundowns and Ajax the pick of the opening round.
A certain air of familiarity surround the pair, as the 2013
knockout competition gets set for another clash between the two Premiership heavyweights.
Sundowns walked away winners almost exactly a year ago at Cape Town Stadium in their last Cup meeting, as Tebogo Langerman scored the only goal of the game deep into extra-time after the fixture ended goalless after 90 minutes.
Fast-forward 364 days, and the two will meet for a second time in less than a week, with the Brazilians edging Ajax 3-2 in a thrilling league encounter last weekend.
Pitso Mosimane, no stranger to the Nedbank Cup, said he was looking forward to a second meeting with the Urban Warriors, in a game that always produces plenty of goalmouth action.
“I knew that the team we played on Saturday is not the same team we will play on Friday,” the Sundowns boss said ahead of the game.
“We have beaten them, we have an edge over them, so they 1/8Ajax 3/8 know we are capable of beating them.”
The visitors will want to make a good start to the final opportunity of the year to bag some silverware, having not won a trophy since 2008, where the Pretoria side lifted the inaugural version of the Cup with Nedbank as the title sponsors.
“Sundowns is an ambitious team. I know what the board wants, they want a strong continental team and we have an opportunity to do that with the league, we have an opportunity to do that with the Cup at this point in time,” Mosimane said of the tournament, which guarantees the winner the chance to compete in the Caf Confederations Cup.
Mosimane, however, dismissed any notions that he and his team would be paying special attention to the Cup competition instead of the Premiership, adding that all of Bafana Ba Style’s games were as important as the next.
“I don’t prioritise,” he said in no uncertain terms.
He said that although the league giants were ready for a good run in the prestigious Cup tournament, Sundowns was still a team undergoing a process of restructuring.
“It’s about what happens on the day. Here it takes time. Look where we’ve come from,” the former Bafana Bafana mentor said.
“The team has to settle, but you know, at Sundowns, who listens to you when you say that the team has to settle?
“The media doesn’t listen. The supporters want to win and they say, ‘coach, stop the stories, bring the trophies'.”
He said the reality was that the team was seven-months-old and were “gelling”.
“There has been a lot of consistency and there have been victories all the way.”
Ajax, meanwhile, will be buoyed by the club’s decision early Thursday to announce the appointment of Roger de Sa as the club’s new head coach.
The Cape outfit had been without a coach since Turkish boss Mushin Ertugral departed due to personal reasons, leaving assistant Ian Taylor in charge for four games. – Sapa