Sundowns, SuperSport, Sekhukhune handed tough draws for CAF competitions

Mamelodi Sundowns players celebrate a goal during a CAF Champions League preliminary match

FILE - Mamelodi Sundowns players celebrate a goal during a CAF Champions League preliminary match. Photo: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix

Published Oct 6, 2023


South African clubs were handed the wrong end of the stick in their respective CAF competitions during the round robin stage draw conducted in Johannesburg on Friday.

All three DStv Premiership sides were drawn into tough groups, with local champions Mamelodi Sundowns likely to have to dig deep to finish in the top two of their Champions League group.

In the secondary continental club competition, the CAF Confederation Cup, both SuperSport United and Sekhukhune United find themselves in groups they definitely would have liked to avoid in their quest to at least emulate Marumo Gallants' impressive showing all the way to the semifinal from the previous campaign.

Champions League winners in 2016, Sundowns are in a Group A that includes multiple champions TP Mazembe as well as Egypt's fast improving and highly ambitious Pyramids plus Mauritania's newcomers Noiadhibou.

On the face of it and given their continental pedigree and recent performances, Rulani Mokwena's team are favourites to win the group. They were the top seeds, after all.

But a resurgent TP Mazembe, despite the fact that they have only won once in five meetings against the Brazilians, is likely to provide a potential banana skin.

On the other hand, Egyptian teams are renowned for being wily and hard to get past in the Champions League, particularly in their own backyard — and Pyramids will prove a hard nut to crack for Themba Zwane and Co.

Logic dictates that Champions League debutants Noiadhibou will be the group's whipping boys given their lack of experience. But a trip to Mauritania is definitely going to be a test of character for the South Afeican champions who fell at the penultimate stage of the competition in the last campaign.

Gavin Hunt's SuperSport were impressive in eliminating Gaborone United via a 3-0 thrashing in the final preliminary round and they will desperately need to be in that beast mode throughout their six matches against a trio of north African opposition.

Matsatsantsa are in Group A along with defending champions USMA of Algeria, Egypt's Future as well as Libyan side All Hilal Benghazi. Given the difficulty of playing north African opposition in their own backyard — tough travelling logistics, poor trwatment from th hosts as well as hostile crowds that often sees match officials biased for the home team — SuperSport's home matches are going to be must-win affairs if they are to give themselves good chance of advancing.

Sekhukhune impressed in eliminating St Elois Lupopo and Ba Bina Noko will surely be emboldened by an impressive record by Limpopo teams in the completion. Apart from Gallants' semifinal feat last season, there was also a very good run by Black Leopards back in 2012, Lidoda Duvha reaching the group stages and coming to within a whisker of making the last eight.

To emulate any of those teams, particularly Gallons, Sekhkhune will have to get the better of Renaissance Berkane - the Moroccan team that beat Orlabdo Pirates via the shoot-out feom the penalty spot following a 1-1 stalemate to win the self same competition two years ago.

They also have, as group opposition, Diables Noir of Congo Brazzaville and Mali side Stade Malien.

Sekhukhune appear to have a much easier draw than SuperSport though and should they use homeground advantage well, they do not have the tough away matches as those of Hunt's team.

It is not impossible, but it will take some doing to have all three South Africa teams contesting the knockout stages of the continental competitions.


IOL Sport