Last year Sundowns went all the way to the semi-finals of the Nedbank Cup, and that run had a negative impact on their African campaign
DENIS Onyango is adamant the puzzle coach Pitso Mosimane is putting together at Mamelodi Sundowns is almost complete; even though the Brazilians were eliminated by Chippa United in the first round of the Nedbank Cup.
The Brazilians were stunned by the struggling Chilli Boys, who are battling to avoid relegation, while the Tshwane giants are looking to retain the Premiership and cement their place in the knockout stage of the CAF Champions League.
Mosimane, even though he didn’t say it in as many words, admitted that their elimination in the Cup was a blessing in disguise as it means they’ll now be able to focus on the PSL and the Champions League.
Last year Sundowns went all the way to the semi-finals of the Nedbank Cup, and that run had a negative impact on their African campaign.
Their dual focus left them with nothing; they crashed out of the Nedbank Cup and were eliminated in the group stage of the Champions League. This time the early elimination will allow them to focus on what will be a gruelling week, hosting AmaZulu tonight at Loftus Versfeld in the league and then taking on Asec Mimosas in the Champions League on Friday. The close proximity of these matches will force Mosimane to make tweaks to his starting XI.
“We’ve got a lot of new players in the team,” Onyango said. “We missed out on the domestic trophies. We were a little bit sluggish earlier in the season, trying to fit in the new players. But at the moment we’re almost done putting together our puzzle. The senior players in the team, I, Hlompho (Kekana), Kennedy (Mweene), (Anthony) Laffor and Wayne (Arendse) are trying to help the young and new players fit into the team, and make them aware that every game we play at Sundowns is a cup final.
“We can’t lift our game when we play against Wydad (Casablanca) and then drop when we play Highlands Park.
“Everyone has the fighting spirit because we believe that we have the quality, because we want to win silverware for the team.”
AmaZulu who were also eliminated in the last 32, will face a wounded Sundowns who are playing catch-up in the league. The Brazilians tend to react strongly after disappointment.
After losing to Lobi Stars in their opening game of the Champions League, Sundowns responded by producing one of their best performances in the tournament against Wydad.
“Football is unpredictable,” Onyango said. “You might think that you’re on top of it – like we believe we’re almost there now, and then you go to Chippa and they knock you out of the cup. And then you start from scratch because we have AmaZulu immediately.
“We aren’t looking at who is in front of us, we are just looking at winning.”