JOHANNESBURG – Pirates assistant coach Fadlu Davids has put his head on the block and wished Mamelodi Sundowns the best of luck in their pursuit of a second Caf Champions League crown.
Pirates made their return to the competition for the first time in five years but were bounced out in the group stage. The Buccaneers finished third in Group B, eight points behind defending champions Esperance and four behind Horoya Athletic Club.
Sundowns will be the country’s flag bearer in continental competition as they progressed to the quarter-finals following a second-place finish in Group A. This will be the Brazilians' third knockout stage appearance in the past four seasons.
In the last eight they’ll be hoping to overcome Egyptian giants Al Ahly, and Davids is optimistic that an achievement of that will be a boost for this country’s football.
“As South Africans, we’ve put all our hopes on them in the Champions League. For this game against Al Ahly we are all behind them and they have to qualify (for the semi-finals) and put the country on the map,” Davids said.
“With more South Africans teams doing well, you never know, we might be able to get more spots and points in the Champions League.
"We depend on them. They are the PSL champions, have won the Champions League before, and we really hope that they can carry us through to the semi-finals of the competition.”
Davids’ sentiments towards Sundowns seem to have rubbed off on the senior national team, Bafana Bafana, as they’ll return to continental football in the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations to be hosted by Egypt in June.
The South Africans were propelled to their first major tournament in four years by the brilliance of Percy Tau, who netted a brace in their 2-1 win over Libya last weekend to ensure they finished second in qualifying Group E, a point behind Nigeria.
Rewind to 2016 and Tau played an integral role in helping Sundowns win their first African title.
As a result, former Maritzburg United mentor Davids is convinced that the more South African club teams play in continental football, the more chances Bafana have of qualifying for major tournaments.
“It is not by accident that we’ve qualified for the Africa Cup of Nations, and that’s been largely due to the African experience that we’ve been getting in the PSL. And you have to mainly credit Sundowns for that,” Davids stated.
However, continental football is the closest that Pirates' deputy coach will be lauding Sundowns’ heroics.
In domestic football there’s no time for sweet talk as both teams are out to pursue their own agendas. Their rivalry is currently at its peak in the challenge for the Absa Premiership as the Brazilians sit top of the log, while the Sea Robbers are third and trail by three points.
With the two teams scheduled to square off in a top-of-the-table clash on Monday night, that encounter could play a huge role in determining this season’s PSL champions.@Mihlalibaleka