JOHANNESBURG – On the face of it, South Africa’s three representatives in continental competitions should have little to no problem progressing to the next stage of the competition.
The opposition that both Mamelodi Sundowns and Orlando Pirates face in the Caf Champions League as well as Kaizer Chiefs’ adversaries in the Caf Confederation Cup, are not the kind that should see our teams tumbling out.
While the South Africans are previous winners of the competitions they are involved in, their adversaries are essentially new to the first round proper. Except for Sundowns’ opposition Al Ahly Benghazi of Libya, the other two sides are in new territory.
Pirates and Chiefs host this weekend’s first leg and should make good use of home comforts to render the away trips a mere formality.
The Buccaneers welcome Namibian outfit African Stars to Orlando Stadium tomorrow (6pm kick-off). Stars are in their debut season in the Champions League. They played in the Caf Confederation Cup (in 2014) as well as in the second tier competition’s predecessor, the Caf Cup, in 1992. They were knocked out at the first hurdle on both occasions.
As Namibian champions Stars beat Volcan of the Comoros in the preliminary 2-1 on aggregate - not the kind of result to send Micho Sredojevic and his men shaking in their boots.
Chiefs are at Durban’s Moses Mabhida Stadium at 8pm against Madagascar’s AASSM Elgeco Plus. Elgeco sneaked in courtesy of a slim aggregate win after victory at home but defeat away to Deportivo Unidada of Equatorial Guinea.
Sundowns will probably have to dig a little deeper to progress. For one, Pitso Mosimane will be without a few key players in Ricardo Nascimento, Themba Zwane and Rivaldo Coetzee - the latter two having been crucial in their progress to this stage.
And then there’s the fact that Al Ahly Benghazi are no pushovers, having shown in 2014 when they eliminated their Egyptian namesakes Al Ahly to make their only appearance in the group phase.
The match will be played in neutral Cairo given the unrest in Libya.
Sundowns are seasoned campaigners who have had some great successes in north Africa and should prove too strong for the Libyan side that limped into this phase via a 3-2 aggregate victory over Mauritania’s Nouadhibou.@Tshiliboy