JOHANNESBURG - The possibility of Kaizer Chiefs stunning Mamelodi Sundowns in a match the Brazilians are expected to win excites Sundowns’ captain Hlompho Kekana.
The Brazilians are the overwhelming favourites in the opening match of the 2018/19 Absa Premiership season at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday afternoon. Sundowns’ relatively B-team dominated Amakhosi in the Shell Helix Ultra Cup two weeks ago.
The Tshwane side don’t only have a stronger team than their opponents but they also have played more competitive matches while Chiefs’ pre-season has been underwhelming with performances that haven’t screamed championship material. But Amakhosi can flip the script on Sundowns like they did last season in the corresponding fixture. An injury ravaged Chiefs returned from the country’s capital with three points and a 2-1 win.
“I love the game because it’s not based on how people see it and who are favourites,” Kekana said. “It’s all about who pitches on match-day. That prospect excites me. We have to apply ourselves well on the match and if we do that, we stand a good chance of winning. The expectations are very high from both teams because Chiefs isn’t just any ordinary team. They are a big team and a powerhouse in South African football. When we play them, we always get this extra motivation because we’re not on the same level. If we play as underdogs, it would be a nice tag for us.”
For the first time in two years, Sundowns had a semblance of a break because of the Fifa World Cup. Pitso Mosimane gave his players a break of more than three weeks, having been the last team to go into recess thanks to the Caf Champions League. They were also the first team to return to competitive football in back-to-back clashes with AS Togo-Port. But Kekana and his teammates don’t complain about their workload.
“The inspiration for us is simple, it’s the love of the game and the goals that we have set as a team. We want to be the generation that brings a lot of trophies to Chloorkop,” Kekana said.
Kekana’s generation brought home the most important trophy in the club’s history in 2016, the Champions League. The 33-year-old from Zebediela was captain during that successful spell and in May he won his first league trophy as Sundowns’ captain.
“We have set the bar very high and we have to maintain the standards that we have set for ourselves,” Kekana said. “We should start very well. I am not happy with the way we started last season because we lost a lot of games. We want to rectify the mistakes that we made in the past and try to do things better so that we improve as a team. A team like us must win our matches. We have a responsibility to do well. As players we are aware of that responsibility.”
This match comes just after Sundowns registered their first win in the group stage of the Champions League. That win put them in second place, just two points behind first-placed Wydad Casablanca and tied on five points with Horoya.