The mind games that Jomo Sono has been waging with his Black Leopards counterpart Joel Masutha come to an end this afternoon at Vosloorus Stadium in the controversial play-offs.
Sono and Masutha spent the better part of their preparations knowing that they will also take on Ajax Cape Town in a three-way league with status in the Premier Division up for grabs.
That changed on Tuesday when the arbitration found the Urban Warriors guilty of fielding a defaulter - Tendai Ndoro, who is with his third club in a single season which is against Fifa rules.
Ajax were punished for that. Platinum Stars, SuperSport United and Polokwane City were awarded three points and a 3-0 win from the matches in which Ajax fielded Ndoro.
This resulted in Ajax being relegated to the National First Division and Platinum Stars “promoted” from automatic relegation to finishing in a play-offs spot.
The Urban Warriors filed an urgent interdict to stop the play-offs and for the arbitration ruling to be set aside. The court dismissed the Capetonians’ application on stopping the play-offs.
While that drama was going on, Jomo Cosmos and Leopards had to focus on the job at hand as their play-offs spots were guaranteed regardless of who is the club from the Premier Division.
Sono and his team probably handled this predicament better. The Black Prince is a master of psychological warfare.
After his B team were thrashed 3-0 by Leopards in Thohoyandou in their last match in the NFD, Sono argued his team had the upper hand and then said Lidoda Duvha are favourites.
“Leopards are favourites, they’ve just beaten us 3-0,” Sono said. “How do you beat a team that was number two 3-0, and not be favourites?”
Masutha, who has won promotion in the play-offs as player and assistant coach at Leopards, isn’t falling into Sono’s trap.
“Mind games aren’t my thing,” Masutha said.
“He says that we are favourites but it’s going to be eleven versus eleven. If we were coming with twelve players and they had eleven then I’d agree that we are favourites.
“We don’t look into that because once you start reading too much into that favourite tag, you start to think that you have arrived and all of a sudden boom you are gone.”
Leopards, however, do have the upper hand over Cosmos. They sit in first place with three points after beating Dikwena 1-0 in their opening match of the three-team mini league.
Cosmos have spent one more year than Leopards in the first division since they were relegated in the 2011/12 season. It’s been a long wait for both these clubs to return to the Premier Division.
Their hunger and experience in the play-offs makes them favourites ahead of Dikwena, who had a terrible season in the élite league and started their fight for survival on the back foot.
The team who collect the most points in the two clashes between Cosmos and Leopards, this afternoon in Vosloorus and on May 30 in Thohoyandou, are likely to be the 16th team in the Premier Soccer League next season.
“We will compete,” Sono said.
“The advantage that we have is that the coach saw a different Cosmos team in our last match. I saw his team. That’s his team. He can’t change that team. He is going to come with that team all the way. So we know his team, we know how they play.
“It’s going to be difficult for them. I am not saying we are going to beat them but it’s going to be difficult for them.
“At Vosloorus they won’t beat us, that’s for sure. I think that I have the upper hand over them.”