JOHANNESBURG – Denis Onyango is adamant that the puzzle coach Pitso Mosimane is putting together at Mamelodi Sundowns is almost complete, even though the Brazilians were eliminated by Chippa United in the round-of-32 in the Nedbank Cup.
The Brazilians were stunned by the struggling Chilli Boys, who are battling to avoid relegation - while the Tshwane giants are looking to retain the Absa Premiership and cement their place in the knockout stage of the CAF Champions League.
Mosimane, even though he didn’t say it in as many words, admitted that their elimination in the Nedbank Cup was a blessing in disguise as it means they’ll focus on the PSL and the Champions League.
Last year Sundowns went all the way to the semi-finals of the Nedbank Cup, and that run had a negative impact on their campaign in the Champions League.
Their dual focus left them with nothing, they crashed out of the Cup after a long run with nothing and they were eliminated in the group stage of the Champions League.
This recent elimination will allow them to focus on what will be a gruelling week, hosting AmaZulu tonight at Loftus Versfeld in the PSL and then taking on Asec Mimosas in the Champions League on Friday.
The close proximity of these matches will force Mosimane to make tweaks to his starting XI.
“We’ve got a lot of new players in the team,” Onyango said. “We missed out on the domestic trophies.
“We were a little bit sluggish earlier in the season, trying to fit in the new players. But at the moment we’re almost done putting together our puzzle. The senior players in the team, I, Hlompho (Kekana), Kennedy (Mweene), (Anthony) Laffor and Wayne (Arendse) are trying to help the young and new players fit in, and make them aware that every game we play at Sundowns is a cup final.
“We can’t lift our game when we play against Wydad (Casablanca) and then drop when we play Highlands Park. The results are very important regardless of who we are playing.
“We’re instilling it on the players. Everyone has the fighting spirit because we believe that we have the quality because we want to win silverware for the team.”
AmaZulu, who were eliminated in the last 32 by Highlands Park, in a penalty shootout, will face a wounded Sundowns who are playing catch-up in the league.
The Brazilians tend to react strongly after disappointment. After losing to Lobi Stars in their opening game of the Champions League, Sundowns responded by producing one of their best performances in the tournament - a 2-1 win over Wydad - complete with mental strength and tactical acumen.
The signs from this team is that they will look good once they click as Mosimane is still finding the right combinations.
“But after losing out on three domestic competitions this year, there’s pressure to deliver.
“Football is unpredictable,” Onyango said.
“You might think that you’re on top of it - like we believe we’re almost there now, and then you go to Chippa and they knock you out of the cup. And then you start from scratch because we have AmaZulu immediately.
We aren’t looking at who is in front of us, we are just looking at winning.”