Cape Town – Cape Town City and coach Eric Tinkler have acquired a cup final pedigree after collectively reaching four championship rounds over five seasons, and the experience could be worth its weight in gold against Mamelodi Sundowns in Saturday's MTN8 final in Durban.
The records show that City, with Tinkler at the helm, won the Telkom Knockout in the 2016-2017 season. A year later, they were crowned 2018 MTN8 champions, after reaching the final for the second successive year. The previous year they lost to SuperSport United when Tinkler was the head coach of the Pretoria-based side.
In their most recent match a week ago, City came to light with an enterprising performance against Golden Arrows in a seven-goal thriller after leading a 4-0 lead. This win, the season's first at home in the Premiership, materialised after an extended underwhelming run of games.
This win coming ahead of the MNT8 final has seen waves of optimism and confidence descending on the City camp, and it is certainly not unfounded. In recent times, even when results were not forthcoming, City were producing spells of constructive, impressive play. It often caught the eye of commentators and match analysts who were full of praise for the team. However, these fine spells of play came in fits and starts as their efforts were punctured by inconsistency and erraticism.
Sundowns are a formidable team and given the size of their squad, it is never necessary to field overworked players. Last season they made a near clean sweep of titles on offer for Premiership teams. It must be said though that throughout the season there were matches in which they were far from impressive but managed a win. On occasions, they were lucky to draw but in their defence, it is a hallmark of championship teams to pick up points even when performance is below par.
Tinkler will send his players out, each armed with their blueprint for the match. As long as each player sticks to the task they are allotted there is every chance of toppling Sundowns. The impact of the collective effort will rely on the contributions of individuals and that could propel the team to a win.
Apart from deciding on the roles for each player, Tinkler will also devise plans to eliminate the regular threats in the Sundowns team. The biggest threat is the Sundowns' ace goalmouth poacher Peter Shalulile, who comes with the full skill package - dribbling, passing, speed, plus close- and long-range finishing.
Taariq Fielies, City's hard-nosed, multi-skilled fullback, will be assigned to man-mark Shalulile, who needs to be kept on a tight rein. If not, he'll make City pay dearly. Fielies will also be required to snuff out danger in the striking zone posed by Sundowns midfield general Andile Jali who has made a habit of imposing himself on matches.