JOHANNESBURG – Mamelodi Sundowns’ greed will be put to the test by two crucial and tricky encounters in two different competitions this week.
The Brazilians host ABC Motsepe League team EC Bees tomorrow at Loftus in the Nedbank Cup last 16. Five days later Sundowns will return to Loftus to take on Rayon Sports of Rwanda in the second leg of the first round of the Caf Champions League after they drew 0-0 in the first leg in Kigali last week.
Sundowns have enough firepower to easily brush aside both of these teams, but the Tshwane giants are their own worst enemy when things are easy for them. Sundowns coach Pitso Mosimane admitted that complacency was the main reason they didn’t return from Rwanda in a favourable position with a place in the group stage up for grabs.
If Sundowns don’t improve, they might find themselves being slayed by the minnows from the Eastern Cape and east Africa respectively and thus fail to reach the Cup quarter-finals and Champions League group stage.
That would be a massive blow for the Brazilians who are targeting all three competitions they are involved in - the PSL, Champions League and Nedbank Cup.
That “greed” hurt Sundowns in last season and they finished with none of these three competitions, having lost their bite upfront in the final stretch of the campaign.
Yet that harsh lesson didn’t lead to Sundowns prioritising certain trophies over others, but it instead made them manage their squad better so they have fresh legs and minds for the final stretch to compete on three fronts as well as travel across the continent.
Hlompho Kekana, Sibusiso Vilakazi, Tiyani Mabunda and Themba Zwane have all been rested to return stronger and carry the team over the finish line. Vilakazi has shown the effects of that rest as he has been superb since carrying the team against SuperSport United and AmaZulu. And then there is Gaston Sirino who has fitted seamlessly into the Brazilians’ line-up.
“You haven’t seen (the best of) Gaston,” Mosimane said. “He is still coming. Gaston scores goals. He is still looking for his first goal.
“He is anxious to get that first goal. He was close against AmaZulu, Cape Town All Stars and SuperSport United. I told him to relax, his goal will come. He is a good player.”
Mosimane will not be around to see that happen should Sirino open his Sundowns account against EC Bees tomorrow. “Jingles” is in Morocco at the invitation of Caf president Ahmad Ahmad to take part in their Pro License Course.
The eight-module long course for the highest coaching qualification on the continent starts today until Wednesday in Rabat. Classes will be held during Fifa dates.
Assistant coach Manqoba Mngqithi will sit on the hot seat tomorrow and will be in charge of Wednesday’s training session as Mosimane will only return on Thursday.
Mngqithi oversaw the Brazilians’ passage into the last 16 at the expense of NFD side All Stars.