JOHANNESBURG – Mamelodi Sundowns’ will fight tonight to break the hoodoo that Polokwane City holds over them when the two teams meet at the Peter Mokaba Stadium in Limpopo’s capital tonight (kick-off 7.30pm)
Last season, Sundowns suffered two defeats to City in the league.
In their first encounter, a Rodney Ramagalela brace broke the hearts of the Brazilians at Loftus Versfeld Stadium, and Rise and Shine proved that the win was no fluke by again getting all three points as hosts earlier this year.
However, that meant nothing to the larger picture of the league - besides a measure of bragging rights - as Pitso Mosimane's men went on to clinch the Absa Premiership title for a record eighth time.
It’s been three months since that happy ending for the team that hails from Tshwane, and they are now back defending their champions of South Africa football tag.
The Brazilians opened their 2018/19 account with a 1-1 stalemate against Kaizer Chiefs at Loftus at the weekend. Sundowns were far from being their best at home, seemingly still adjusting after losing two crucial players during the pre-season: Khama Billiat - who’s now at Chiefs - and Absa Premiership Footballer of the Year Percy Tau - who’s joined English side Brighton & Hove Albion.
Uruguayan Gaston Sirino has already shown that he’s got the ability to fill the void left by the duo but it will take a collective team effort to ensure that they remain a competitive outfit in both domestic and continental football.
Newbies Lyle Lakay and Lebohang Maboe made their debuts for the team at the sold-out contest against Amakhosi, while Andile Jali - out injured - Mosa Lebusa, Reyaad Pieterse, Toni Silva, Christan Moses and Ali Maeza will have to wait a little longer.
Their journey up north to Polokwane will be no different than last season. Rise and Shine are smarting after losing 1-0 to Black Leopards in their derby.
Tonight they will again look to danger-man Ramagalela upfront, alongside Walter Musona, to make sure the champions do not walk all over them.
Meanwhile, former Free State Stars striker Mohammed Anas could also make his debut.
Coach Mosimane and his troops won’t need much motivation to do the job in Limpopo in an effort to kickstart their campaign.
Mosimane has also rallied behind the misfiring Jeremy Brockie to break his duck for the club soon.
Against Chiefs, the ‘Sniper’ looked to have found some self-belief again as he hit the cross-bar with one of his efforts and City may just provide the perfect platform for him to open his account.
Making an eary impression in the league will be vital in Sundowns’ defence considering that player rehabilitation is something that hardly exists in their schedule this year as they vie for titles in the league, Caf Champions League, the MTN8, Telkom Knock-out and Nedbank Cup.
Last year’s triumph of the Absa Premiership also marked their fifth successive return to continental football, which will commence from November once the current campaign is completed.@Mihlalibaleka