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Ready to grind

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It's not about the depth but a belief that you can win says Mamelodi Sundowns coach

EMERGENCY BRAKE: Hlompho Kekana of Mamelodi Sundowns has enough experience and knows how to slow the game down and kill things slowly, according to his coach. Picture: Muzi Ntombela BackpagePix

A MERE three points behind leaders Bidvest Wits having played three matches less, Mamelodi Sundowns are looking pretty good to defend their Absa Premiership title.

Their coach Pitso Mosimane has, however, been around the block long enough to know when he can start getting excited.

While he is happy with his team’s unbeaten run at the halfway mark of the season, the multiple championship-winning coach is not counting a fourth league title as a given.

After all, he says, Sundowns are far from being the finished product and there are some tough matches ahead still.

“We are a team in the making, a team in construction. So we can’t talk about the championship,” the man popularly referred to as Jingles explained.

“When you play against a free-flowing and well-oiled machine of Orlando Pirates who have the same team that gave us a run for our money last year; a (Kaizer) Chiefs team who’ve got the CB (Leonardo Castro and Khama Billiat) who have been playing together for a long time and a Wits side that has made some good signings with an experienced coach, then you’ll understand that we are not yet there.

“It’s nice that we are not there because you grind a little bit but maybe next season we’ll talk about a team that knows each other very well.”

Incredibly, Mosimane was speaking just after his team – who played the kind of football that suggested they are on the same wavelength – had gotten the better of a competitive Highlands Park in their own backyard courtesy of a 2-1 Absa Premiership victory on Tuesday night.

Good depth

He reasoned, however, that while all the championship contenders have good depth, where Sundowns are better is in their “belief”.

“It’s not about the depth. Everybody has the depth. Have you seen the depth at Wits, Pirates, Chiefs? They can also field two teams like us. It’s not about the depth but a belief to win,” Mosimane went on.

“We don’t play not to lose the match. I always say I’d rather lose one game and win the next two than to draw three times. From there you’ll get three points, and you didn’t lose and the record looks nice but I’d have got six out of nine. But it’s not about that (depth). It’s that the guys work hard and they want it.”

According to Mosimane, their main frailty has been their lack of a solid target man upfront.

Jeremy Brockie has been blowing hot and cold while Ali Meza and Phakamani Mahlambi have taken longer to adjust.

The Brazilians have also only recently shipped out Toni Silva to Al Ittihad Alexandria.

However, Mosimane has been impressed by his engine-room duo of Hlompho Kekana and Tiyani Mabunda.

“Kekana and Mabunda are experienced; they know how to slow the game down. And, sometimes we need to kill it slowly,” he explained.

While he is playing his team’s chances down, the fact that Sundowns are yet to lose a league match since last January seems to suggest they can hold on to their Absa Premiership title.

And already there are those who believe they can do so unbeaten. Not that Mosimane will take that to heart.