JOHANNESBURG - In simple terms, a clean sheet for Mamelodi Sundowns tonight will be enough to take them to their first MTN8 final in three seasons, keeping alive their hopes of winning the competition for the first time since 2007.
But Wayne Arendse, who will be a vital cog in Sundowns’ defence when they clash with neighbours SuperSport United in the return leg of the MTN8 semi-final at Lucas Moripe Stadium, has urged his teammates to guard against complacency.
With the two teams having played to a 1-1 draw in the first leg, Sundowns will head into tonight’s encounter with the advantage, thanks to an away goal.
But Arendse knows that if it will be naive of them to rely on their away goal in order to book place in the final.
This is, after all, a team that has failed to win the MTN8 for 12 years despite dominating South African football and winning almost every other trophy on offer for the past six years.
“The away goal is not really an advantage because teams goes into the games to score,” Arendse said.
“They can score only one goal (and keep a clean sheet), and they are basically done. It’s not really an advantage, unless the game ends in a 0-0 draw. But we know what to do, and we have a positive mindset of scoring goals and keeping a clean sheet.”
Add to the fact that while Sundowns last made the MTN8 final in 2016, where they were trounced 3-0 by Wits, SuperSport are eyeing their third successive appearance in the final. In 2017, Matsantsantsa walked away with the trophy and a cool cheque of R8million after defeating Cape Town City in the final, but the latter avenged that defeat last season with a 4-1 win on penalties at Moses Mabhida Stadium.
And if anything is to go by from their bright start this season, Keitano Tembo’s men could well make their third final in a row, especially with the fit Bradley Grobler and new signing Thamsanqa Gabuza scoring goals for fun.
Gabuza aerial and physical strengths has been pivotal for SuperSport in the MTN8, as he is the competition’s top-goal scorer with three goals so far - scoring two against Wits in the quarter-finals and one against the Brazilians in the first leg of the semi-finals. Arendse is aware of the threat that the pair will pose ahead of tonight’s Tshwane derby, but he says he will be there to keep them at bay.
“I think it will be a very physical game, where they’ll look to trouble us at set-pieces. They’ll be looking to get the ball into the box, because that’s where they’ve been scoring. But if we manage those, I think we’ll be okay,” Arendse said.
“We’ll play our normal game but we need to adapt when the opponent brings another way of playing, aerially and bombarding us with long balls. I think on a personal level, my aerial ability will help. We just need to manage them.”
Having had a full pre-season as their domestic and continental duties got underway simultaneously, Arendse feels that this could very well be Sundowns’ year to finally win the MTN8.
“This MTN8 competition has always caught us at a bad time, either we are travelling or busy with Caf commitments. But I think this time around, it’s not that hectic. We really want to win the Cup because it’s the only one that’s missing in our (trophy) cabinet. I think it’s a good year to go all the way and lift the trophy,” Arendse said.