JOHANNESBURG - All of SuperSport United coach Eric Tinkler’s efforts to put the CAF Confederation Cup final against TP Mazembe next month on the back burner could be a futile exercise as he now has to find replacements for two suspended players in the first leg away to the Democratic Republic of Congo giants.
Morgan Gould and Reneilwe Letsholonyane, two key players for Matsatsantsa in their latest feat of reaching a continental cup final, will each serve a one-match suspension, so they are unavailable for the trip to Lubumbashi on November 17.
Tinkler told reporters shortly after his arrival from Tunisia, where SuperSport beat Club Africain 3-1 (for a 4-2 aggregate advantage) in the semi-final, that he wanted to turn his attentions to the domestic league for now.
SuperSport are second from bottom having fallen behind in the Premier League fixture programme. They face Bloemfontein Celtic in the opening round of the Telkom Knockout cup on Saturday evening.
“I thought Tefu Mashamaite, when he came on for Morgan, later in the game was exceptional. He showed great composure,” said Tinkler. “We needed to be composed on the ball and he gave us that. So I have no fear with him coming in as a replacement for Morgan.
"In midfield it will be difficult replacing Yeye (Letsholonyane) because we don’t really have another one who is like him. He has experience and creativity. Probably Sipho Mbule... is the closest one that we have (who is registered). That is probably why we have brought in Sifiso Myeni, but he is not registered. He will be important for us in the league games because we need to catch up.”
Tinkler expressed concern at only being able to welcome back as many as five players from national duty just two days before the first leg of the cup final.
“There are two Bafana Bafana games (back to back against Senegal) and we will probably have players there and we are also losing (striker) Jeremy Brockie to New Zealand (for) a World Cup qualifier away in Peru and he probably only gets back the Wednesday. I hope everybody comes through unscathed,” Tinkler said.
SuperSport will host Mazembe in the return leg a week after travelling to the DRC. They will have Gould and Letsholonyane back, and have gained knowledge on Mazembe from the first game.
“I think that is important. It is falling the way I wanted it because the two times I have been there (2013 Champions League as Orlando Pirates assistant coach and in the 2015 Confederation Cup) it's been the other way around,” the coach explained.
“And we have always ended up conceding at home and finding it difficult to score away. Now we are getting the opposite. We know we are good at scoring away from home and hopefully we can get two or three goals.”
But Mazembe aren’t slouches. In fact, they are the reigning Confederation Cup champions.
“I am sure everyone is surprised to see SuperSport here,” said Tinkler. “They have always expected Pirates and recently Mamelodi Sundowns. I watched the game between SuperSport and Mazembe there (a 2-2 draw in the group stages before Tinkler took over) and I thought we looked very strong. They have had a taste of what it’s like there, but you also can’t take anything away from TP Mazembe with their experience.”