Cape Town - Mamelodi Sundowns co-coach Manqoba Mngqithi has raised the ire of Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates fans by dismissing talk of the Soweto giants breaking Masandawana’s dominance in domestic football.
Mngqithi has been firing his salvos ahead of Friday’s Premiership opener as Chiefs and Pirates raise hopes of reclaiming lost glory this season.
Mngqithi said the two Soweto teams, who finished fifth and sixth last season, should rather target improved log positions.
He feels Sundowns’ toughest opponents in the new campaign are those that finished below them in the next three positions – Cape Town City (second), Royal AM (third) and Stellenbosch FC (fourth).
“The teams who are in direct competition (with Sundowns) at this stage are Cape Town City, Stellenbosch and Royal AM,” he said.
“These teams have been progressing very well as the seasons go by, and I still expect them to cause a lot of problems.
“Other teams still have to fight to improve their positions from six to three (like Chiefs and Pirates), and others have to fight to move into the top half of the table.
“I see that Pirates and Chiefs have signed a lot of good players. I understand that it takes a little bit longer for the team to gel when it’s got a lot of new faces.”
Last season, Sundowns were runaway winners by 16 points, although Mngqithi has played down the team’s dominance.
“Running away with the league is something that has never happened,” said Mngqithi.
“It has always been tough. It looked like we were running away
with it at the end, but the truth is that what helped us is that the teams that are always chasing us beat each other. That is where the notion of running away with it comes in.”
Friday’s Premiership opener against City at Cape Town Stadium (7.30pm kick-off) should be a great showdown, given the team’s yearend log positions last season.
Mngqithi feels it is the toughest match the PSL could have lined up for the champions.
“That match is probably one of the toughest matches we can anticipate,” said Mngqithi.
“Cape Town City have been growing in leaps and bounds. They finished second last season, and they deserve to be where they are,” he said.
“Cape Town City were looking very good, and they progressed well throughout the season. Their second round of the season was unbelievable, and we know for a fact that they are not going to be pushovers.
“We are playing a team that is going to be competing in the CAF Champions League, and they are coached by one of the best coaches in the country (in Eric Tinkler).
“We understand the depth and the expectations of the match, and we believe we can still pull it off.”
Cape Town-born Sundowns defender Rushine de Reuck agrees with Mngqithi, and points out that they failed to defeat City in the league last season.
“We know that going to Cape Town isn’t going to be easy. City have been a very difficult team for us to beat,” said De Reuck. “Last season, we didn’t beat them in the league – we drew twice.
“We know how difficult is game is going to be, but it’s our first game of the season, and we need to win just to get the momentum going into the next game.
“It’s very important to start the season with a victory. If we win our first game, it will give us confidence going into the next game.”