JOHANNESBURG – Black Leopards coach, Dylan Kerr, used an excuse that would make Pitso Mosimane fall off his chair laughing in explaining why Lidoda Duvha lost to Maritzburg United on Saturday.
Leopards were drawn into the relegation dogfight with the 2-1 loss to the Team of Choice who have been rooted at the bottom of the Absa Premiership standings for the most part of this season. This result and the 3-1 loss to Bidvest Wits on Wednesday last week means that only three points separate Leopards from United. It’s a tricky position to be in, especially considering that Leopards’ last three matches are against Mamelodi Sundowns, AmaZulu and Cape Town City.
“Maybe it was tired legs, maybe I should have changed it but when you change it you don’t know if the new players will have the same effect,” Kerr said. “That’s something I’ve got to look out for because we’ve got a few days to prepare for the game against Sundowns.”
If Leopards are tired just because they played two games in three days, imagine how Sundowns are feeling having played two Champions League campaigns and the domestic league in one season? As if that wasn’t enough, Sundowns were in Rabat on Friday taking on Wydad Casablanca in the semi-finals of the Champions League. They left Morocco the following day, arrived in the country and made the long trek to Thohoyandou for their match against Leopards tomorrow.
“Sundowns will be tired as well when they come here, from their travelling,” Kerr said. “But the game against Maritzburg was the biggest game for us. We’ve let ourselves down, the players know that.”
Despite their hectic schedule, Sundowns have managed to keep up with the leading pack in the league race as well as be in the top four of the continent’s premier club competition. The effort that came with that display will be put to the test in a season-defining week for Sundowns, starting tomorrow against Leopards followed by their clash with Wydad on Saturday.
The Brazilians have no choice but to win both games if they are to keep their ambitions of retaining the league and winning their second Champions League title alive. These two matches - against vastly different opponents, one fighting to avoid relegation and the other fighting to be Kings of Africa once again - will test the Brazilians on different levels. The match against Lidoda Duvha will test their mental strength.
The match against Wydad, on Saturday, will test Sundowns’ character. The crucial away goal by Anele Ngcongca gave Sundowns a life-line in their bid to reach their third Champions League final.