JOHANNESBURG – Pitso Mosimane will find the stands which he will occupy tonight an unfamiliar environment, but the Mamelodi Sundowns coach will sit there assured as the team is in a familiar position - at the top.
Mosimane will tonight sit out the last match of his two-match ban in their clash with Free State Stars at Loftus Versfeld after referee Victor Gomes sent him off for the first time in his career as a coach.
Jingles will, however, not be making frantic calls to the bench as he knows that the team is in the capable hands of assistant coach Manqoba Mngqithi.
What will also relax Mosimane is that Sundowns have a four-point lead at the summit with 10 matches to go. It’s a familiar sight for the 2016 Caf Coach of the Year who has guided the Brazilians to two first place finishes and two runners’ up positions in the four seasons he started at the helm of Sundowns.
“Where we are, we have been there for all these years,” Mosimane said. “We aren’t new to this space of, ‘oh, there is pressure. If you lose against Free State Stars your lead will be cut short’. No! We know that it’s tough. We are going there nervous, we are human beings after all.”
Mosimane continued, “But we know what to do. You can’t tell me that (undefeated boxing legend Floyd) Mayweather never thought before a fight that someone might throw him a lucky punch and take him down (to end his unbeaten run). You always have to guard against that. Once you start not being nervous about the game, that’s when complacency creeps in.
“I like confidence but not over-confidence. We have to be very careful. We have to execute the plan accordingly. Big players know what to do in that environment where you are nervous. They will deliver. We have people playing for Bafana Bafana here. They know what do and we don’t have to tell them to be serious.”
The next three months will test Sundowns’ resolve as they will compete on three fronts - the Absa Premiership, Caf Champions League and the Nedbank Cup.
Mosimane wants all three cups.
But unlike last season when he went full throttle to get all three cups only to finish with none, Mosimane is adopting a more conservative approach - especially in matches against his direct rivals in the league race. The key word at Sundowns is “managing” the other title contenders after going toe-to-toe with Orlando Pirates only to be knocked out in their own backyard.
“Being No. 1 is an advantage because you are on top and you have more points than anyone else,” Mosimane said. “But when you’re at the top, everyone wants to shoot at you. Everybody sees you and they want to shoot you down.
We know that when we play, everyone wants us to drop points so that this thing (the league race) puts people on the edge.
But I wouldn’t want to be in another position except for this one. I want to be where I am because if I am not here, I am relying on other people, it’s not in my hands. I like where we are. The pressure is there but it’s okay. It’s in our hands. We don’t need favours yet, maybe later we will need favours but not now. Everyone is doing their own work at the moment.”