Manqoba Mngqithi, Mamelodi Sundowns assistant coach, admits that having many of the team's regulars away during the international break could impact Saturday's Telkom Knockout match. Photo: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix

JOHANNESBURG - Mamelodi Sundowns assistant coach, Manqoba Mngqithi, believes their Telkom Knockout last 16 opponents Bloemfontein Celtic are sharp in attack but also have loopholes in defence.

Sundowns haven’t had the best start to the season. They were knocked out of the MTN8 in the semi-finals and in the same week failed to make the quarter-finals of the Caf Champions League.

Their league performances have also left a lot to be desired as they’ve drawn five times and won just twice. The Telkom Knockout will thus offer them a chance to breathe life into their season.

“Celtic have started the season very well. They have one of the best coaches in the country (Steve Komphela) and we’ve already played them in the league so we know their strengths,” Mngqithi said.

“They are a powerful team in attack but they have some defensive frailties. That might not have been exposed in most of the matches, but in the last two matches against Free State Stars, in the league, and Kaizer Chiefs, in the Macufe Cup, there were elements that showed that they can be broken down.”

In their preparation to their TKO opener against Celtic at Lucas Moripe Stadium tomorrow (6pm), six regulars - Motjeka Madisha, Hlompho Kekana, Toni Silva, Phakamani Mahlambi, Sibusiso Vilakazi and Lebohang Maboe - were on international duty, while coach Pitso Mosimane was in Morocco for his Caf Pro License course and left Mngqithi in charge.

“The fact that we didn’t have our internationals for this long (until yesterday) does have a negative effect considering we prepared a team that won’t even start the match,” Mngqithi explained.

“You cannot throw in the players who were away and continue with another squad. We still need some of them to come in and help. But to be honest, we’d be making excuses if we said we didn’t do well because our players had gone to the national team because we knew this period would come.”

International duty ended in tears for talisman Vilakazi, who ruptured his Achilles tendon and is out for the rest of the season. Although 47-year-old assistant coach Mngqithi suggested Vilakazi’s injury might have been caused by work overload, he also feels that Bafana Bafana should have done better in terms of monitoring their training schedule.

“It was always going to be difficult to see the signs of an Achilles rupture,” Mngqithi insisted. “At this stage we can assume that our last match against AmaZulu, which was prior to international duty, took its toll.

"But we also don’t know what the programme was in Bafana - their training lengths and its regularities - because so far we haven’t received all the answers that we are looking for,” the coach added.


The Star

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