JOHANNESBURG – It says a lot about the quality of players Pitso Mosimane has at his disposal that Mamelodi Sundowns could go top of the Absa Premiership table tonight despite their not having gotten into third gear yet.
The Brazilians have essentially been stuttering on the domestic front, with quick exits in cup competitions and their league campaign having endured stop-starts due to their involvement in the Caf Champions League.
Yet, when they host Polokwane City at Loftus Versfeld tonight, the reigning league champions will do so with the knowledge victory will send them atop the 16-team elite league table.
It should be a scary thought for the rest of the championship contenders that Sundowns have managed to keep up in spite of their continental campaigns and their local “struggles”.
Mosimane’s team trail leaders Bidvest Wits by a mere three points, and have played three matches fewer than Gavin Hunt’s Clever Boys.
As much as Sundowns have done well so far, they’re far from the free-flowing team that destroyed teams in the 2015/16 season to win the league in record fashion or the consistent unit they were in the last campaign to win the championship for a record eighth time in the PSL-era.
The burning question then becomes, if they can keep up with Wits and Orlando Pirates while not at their best, what will they do when they hit their full stride? They have answered that in patches. They’ll be devastating.
The Brazilians bounced back from their loss to AmaZulu and elimination in the last 32 of the Nedbank Cup by Chippa United to score six goals in two matches - a 3-1 win to Asec Mimosas in the CAF Champions League and 3-0 win over Black Leopards.
They were far from convincing but the energy and fighting spirit was there. Those traits are important in championship-winning teams.
“We play well in patches,” Mosimane said. “If you look at the period when we were playing the qualifiers for the CAF Champions League, it was beautiful. We scored four here and five there. There was a lot of goals, and then we went through a period where we were winning marginally.
We went to Chiefs, won, but we capitalised on a mistake. We went to Highlands and won. We scored two but in the second half we were holding tight. We weren’t really that good.
“It says that we aren’t really where we want to be. We are a team in construction. We aren’t there. If we’re really convincing, we would win six in a row and Sundowns can win five and six games in a row.
We haven’t done that. Sometimes the team catches fire and it comes out good, but we’ll get there. We aren’t free-flowing like other teams are.”
Sundowns’ best quality under Mosimane is that they know how to put on a show when it matters. They do well in the final stretch compared to the start of the season. They bring their A-game in big matches, as they did against Wydad Casablanca in a game that Mosimane describes as the club’s best performance.
They have to bring that same mindset against Polokwane, who will frustrate Sundowns by defending in numbers and look to hit the Brazilians on the break.
With top spot up for grabs, and a semblance of a rest since returning from Abidjan where they were held to a goalless draw, expect Sundowns to look to steamroll Polokwane to ascend to No 1.