JOHANNESBURG – Reneilwe Letsholonyane expects a different Club Africain to the one SuperSport United held to a 1-1 draw at Lucas Moripe Stadium earlier this month in the first leg of their Caf Confederation Cup semi-final clash.
The Tunisians were there for the taking in the first leg, but SuperSport were wasteful in front of goal.
Matsatsantsa a Pitori’s blushes were saved by a late penalty that was converted by Thabo Mnyamane, who won’t be in action tonight (8pm South African time) in the second leg at Stade Olympique de Rades after picking up an injury in the MTN8 final
“They are quite a decent team,” Letsholonyane said. “We could have won the first leg had we been more clinical.
“We will need to be better than we were in the first leg because this will be a proper fight. They will not be like the team we played against in the first leg. That’s how most North Africans teams are.
“They aren’t that lethal on the road, happy to settle for a draw and then wrap up the match at home.
“That’s how they have dominated these competitions. They’ll be stronger at home, backed by their loud fans and their impressive home record. But we are ready to compete.”
The 13-time Tunisian champions are unbeaten at home in this tournament. SuperSport have to break that record or play to a draw with two goals or more if they are to reach the final.
The scenario is almost similar to the one SuperSport faced in Ndola against Zesco United, who were unbeaten at home after playing to a goalless draw in the first leg.
Matsatsantsa didn’t end that unbeaten run, but their 2-2 draw saw them progress to the semi-finals on the away-goal rule.
But Zambia was more hospitable than Rades. Ndola is just over two hours away by air, and it feels at home for South Africans. But Rades is a totally different case. SuperSport arrived there via Dubai.
The hosts played mind games with them by sending the Tshwane side to the wrong training venue on Friday, and once they were at the right venue, it was waterlogged and certain lights were switched off.
That will only intensify on match-day, which will need old heads like Letsholonyane to show their experience.
The 35-year-old midfielder turned a move that looked like him stepping back from Kaizer Chiefs to one that re-energised him, having won a trophy in each of the two seasons he has been at SuperSport, while the Chiefs cabinet has been empty.
Letsholonyane has been SuperSport’s best acquisition. He is a silent leader who lets his work do the talking while also mentoring the young Teboho Mokoena.
“It has been a difficult journey,” Letsholonyane said. “We have gained valuable experience from it.
“It has brought us together as a team, especially everything that we have endured on the road because we know that when we aren’t at home, the only support system that we have is each other.
“Now that we are this close to the finish line, we want to make sure that we go all the way.”
This match is about second chances for many of SuperSport players.
Coach Eric Tinkler is looking to do what he couldn’t do with Orlando Pirates having lost the 2015 Confederation Cup final in Tunisia.
For Letsholonyane, this is about getting another opportunity to represent his country after Bafana Bafana call-ups dried up a long time ago.
“It would mean a lot for me to this this trophy, because I have won everything on offer in the country,” Letsholonyane said.
“A continental trophy is the only piece of silverware that’s missing from my career.”