JOHANNESBURG - The conductor of the SuperSport United orchestra, Reneilwe Letsholonyane, is back to weave his magic and help the Tshwane side produce sweet music on Saturday after a somewhat off-key display in Lubumbashi.
Matsatsantsa a Pitori go into the second leg of the Caf Confederation Cup at Lucas Moripe Stadium confident after losing 2-1 in the first leg at Stade TP Mazembe last week Sunday.
SuperSport created a number of opportunities to return with a draw or even a win but they fluffed them. The important away goal came from 19-year-old Sipho Mbule, who opened his SuperSport account with a thunderbolt that shook the Ravens and made more remarkable by the fact that he only started because Letsholonyane was suspended.
Mbule is likely to keep his place which would see coach Eric Tinkler deploy a three-man midfield with Mbule, Letsholonyane and captain Dean Furman.
Letsholonyane’s role at SuperSport goes beyond what he offers the club in a match - experience and a calm head with the skill to find a man in blue anywhere on the field. The 35-year-old also mentors Mbule and Teboho Mokoena (20), who are the club’s future.
“It’s our duty as so-called experienced players to try and help these young boys,” Letsholonyane said. “We’ve been through this road. Our duty is to try and minimise their mistakes so that they can realise their potential quicker than we did. For me, it’s important that I keep talking to them and help them grow their game. They just need to be humble, not get carried away by this attention and keep working hard.”
Letsholonyane’s experience will be vital against the five-time Caf Champions League winners and holders of the Confederation Cup. The Ravens know what’s needed to get a win at this stage, while Matsatsantsa are making their first appearance in a continental cup final. What shows Mazembe’s class is that they are a shadow of the all-conquering side they were but they still had enough in them to reach the final. This final is the fourth continental final a South African team is involved in since 2013. It shows the change in mind-set, with players looking beyond than just conquering South Africa.
“I think that it’s growth,” Letsholonyane said. “When you are a kid you start by crawling, then you walk, jog and eventually start running. It’s the same as us in the country. We obviously wanted to do good and be better locally so that we are confident enough to compete in the continental competitions.
"(Mamelodi) Sundowns did it. (Orlando) Pirates did it. That gave other teams in the PSL hope that this is achievable. Now everyone, when they have an opportunity to compete in the continent, gives it their best and they work hard. The results are there for everyone to see that if you do your best, you end up being involved in such finals.”
SuperSport have opened the gates for South Africans in a bid to fill Lucas Moripe Stadium. Fans wearing blue will enter for free. Those who will make the trip to Atteridgeville could see history as Matsatsantsa have thrived when they have been boxed into a corner.
“It would be a great feeling and a great achievement for me to be an African champion,” Letsholonyane said. “I have won everything locally, now what’s left is a continental title. We have an opportunity to get one. It would be a big achievement for me.”