JOHANNESBURG - SuperSport United should forget about their 2-2 draw against TP Mazembe earlier this year.
While Matsatsantsa a Pitori will probably feel they have an idea of what to expect in Lubumbashi on Sunday when they take on the Democratic Repubic of Congo giants in the CAF Confederation Cup final based on that trip, Teboho Moloi has advised his former colleague Eric Tinkler and his team to not fool themselves.
“This will be a completely different environment,” the Chippa United coach warned. And he would know for Moloi has previously faced Mazembe when the stakes were mighty high.
“You see when SuperSport played Mazembe, all that was at stake were points to progress out of the group stage. Now it is a different story altogether and things are going to be very, very different.”
Moloi remembers how hostile the environment was when he and Tinkler visited Mazembe while they were Roger De Sa’s assistants at Orlando Pirates.
“We were playing for a spot in the group stage of the Champions League and they wanted it badly, just as they will want to win this cup final and remain Confed Cup champions. To say the stadium was packed would be putting it mildly. And it wasn’t packed by excited fans but a group of very hostile people who intimidated not just us but the match officials too.”
The result was an early red card for Pirates captain Lucky Lekgwathi as well as two dubious penalties.
“Prior to that they’d also taken away the equipment of the South African journalists who’d travelled with us as a way of making sure they did not let the people back home know what was going on during the match.”
Fortunately, the late Senzo Meyiwa saved the two penalties and Mazembe could only beat Pirates 1-0, leaving the Buccaneers to progress 3-2 on aggregate following their first leg win.
Moloi advises SuperSport to be thick-skinned and not let the intimidation get to them.
“Eric would remember how hard they made it for us to even stand up and give instructions to the team. They even called me a juju-man as they instructed me to sit down and at one stage during the match they went to our dressing room trying to find what they called “your strong juju” because they just didn’t understand how we kept them from scoring.”
He hopes Tinkler still has memories of how they played their way to the Confederation Cup final with Pirates and applies it.
“Our strategy was to always do our best to get at least a draw away and to do that we ensured we were defensively very strong. And defensively I don’t mean just at the back but in the sense that we stopped the opposition from getting into a rhythm.
"Rest assured Mazembe are going to throw everything at SuperSport in the hope of killing the match off as a contest in the first leg. But if Eric can get his team to be sound defensively and keep their shape in the face of an onslaught, I think they have the attacking ability to even steal a goal and then come back home to seal the deal.”
To achieve that though, they will have to keep memories of the 2-2 draw from the group stage out of their minds.