Gavin Hunt believes the Nedbank Cup final against Mamelodi Sundowns is a “50/50 game”, but admits that Matsatsantsa have less at stake than their wealthy Tshwane neighbours.
Sundowns take on Hunt’s SuperSport United at Orlando Stadium looking for a first piece of silverware since the 2008 Nedbank Cup, a truly awful record for a side with Patrice Motsepe’s millions at their disposal.
The Brazilians and SuperSport both, to some extent, wasted excellent opportunities to grab this season’s Absa Premiership title, with Matsatsantsa failing to capitalise on an early advantage, while Sundowns surged in front, and then fell apart as the season drew to a close.
The Nedbank Cup thus offers both teams a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, though the pressure will be more on Johan Neeskens’ Sundowns, given the level of expectation that surrounds the men in yellow.
“They have certainly got a lot of international players with good pedigree, but we have our strengths, we have a big heart and we’ll have a go,” said Hunt on Thursday.
“We have less to lose… they have invested heavily in their team and expectations are high. They play good football under Johan Neeskens, and they have looked good, but at the end of the day it’s about winning.”
“It’s a 50/50 game. We can’t not be confident, I am sure they are confident. It’s a one-off, it’s not like there’s a chance to redeem yourself.”
Matsatsantsa ended Sundowns’ involvement in the title race with a 1-0 victory in Atteridgeville on May 12, Sibusiso Zuma netting the only goal of the game. But Hunt believes that result gives SuperSport no sort of advantage tomorrow.
“It’s irrelevant, it’s gone,” said Hunt. “I don’t think you can even look into that. They beat us in the first round (3-1) and that’s also gone. It’s a huge game. We have to put that behind us and move on.”
Hunt won three successive league titles with SuperSport United between 2007 and 2010 but, interestingly, they have never won a knockout trophy under his guidance.
“At Swallows I won a cup (the 2004 Absa – now the Nedbank – Cup), but we’ve not had the rub of the green here,” he said. “We have got to the final, it wasn’t convincing, but who cares as long as you get there.”
SuperSport’s run to the final was certainly scratchy at times, edging out Vodacom League side Batau FC on penalties and scraping past the NFD’s United FC and now-relegated Jomo Cosmos before finally putting in more than a single goal in a 3-0 semi-final win over AmaZulu.
Sundowns, by comparison, have smashed in 30 goals (albeit 24 against one team, Powerlines FC), and conceded none on the way to the final. A goal glut, however, is unlikely tomorrow, with so much at stake.
“I think both sides are naturally attacking,” said Hunt. “Everyone would love to see a 5-4, but not me, I don’t know if my heart could take it!
“And I’m sure Neeskens’ heart couldn’t either, he’s a bit older than me!”
SuperSport will be without the suspended Franklin Cale, sent off in the second round league game against Sundowns.
“It’s a big blow to us, he gives us that natural width,” said Hunt. “We are not blessed with a lot of players in that position.”
Matsatsantsa do have a revitalised Zuma, however, and are in good form, winning six of their last seven league games.
“We have one or two players fitter now, like (Sameegh) Doutie and Zuma. Kermit Erasmus has also come on in the second round.”
And Hunt has not joined those complaining about hosting a Tshwane derby in a stadium in Soweto.
“I think it’s a great venue choice, a great surface with so much history, nostalgia and great acoustics. It’s not an 80 000 seater, and if we can get 20-25 000 (fans) in there we should have a nice atmosphere.” – The Star