To be the best Sundowns have to beat the best. And their next opponents, Pirates, will likely give them that challenge in an encounter that would have been filled to the rafters were it not for the pandemic.
JOHANNESBURG – There’ll be too much at stake when pacesetters Mamelodi Sundowns and Orlando Pirates lock horns at Loftus Versfeld Stadium on Saturday afternoon (3.30pm kick-off) in one of the highly anticipated fixtures in the sporting calendar.
Fresh from walking away with a domestic treble last season – winning the league title, the Telkom Knockout and Nedbank Cup – the Brazilians have shown their intentions of defending their championship from the outset.
They are at the summit of the Premiership standings with 18 points, thanks to five wins and three draws in the first eight matches. That should be appealing to the Yellow Nation who are used to seeing their team start slow.
It is still early to say whether they’ll go all the way and claim their record 11th championship but kudos should go to the “three wise men” – co-coaches Rhulani Mokwena and Manqoba Mngqithi and senior coach Steve Komphela.
Following the departure of coach Pitso Mosimane to Egyptian giants Al Ahly, the promotion of Mngqithi and Mokwena was met with mixed emotions. But it appears that they have everything under control at Chloorkop, while the addition of Komphela has been welcomed.
Themba Zwane, the reigning Footballer of the Season, continued where he left off last term, scoring seven league goals in as many matches thus far.
But that wouldn’t be possible without the support of new striking partners Kermit Erasmus and Peter Shalulile who’ve fitted like a glove in the team. And with Gaston Sirino’s move to Al Ahly having fallen through, the Brazilians are tipped to be unstoppable up front.
However, to be the best they have to beat the best. And their next opponents, Pirates, will likely give them that challenge in an encounter that would have been filled to the rafters were it not for the pandemic.
Both teams ended 2020 on high notes, Sundowns winning the first leg of the second round of the CAF Champions League preliminary round qualifiers while Pirates did the same in the Confederation Cup.
The last time these rivals met the match ended goalless. But before that Pirates coach Josef Zinnbauer announced his arrival to South African football in style, defeating Mosimane’s team for the first time at Orlando Stadium in more than five years.
The German took over the reins from interim coach Mokwena while the team was languishing in the bottom half of the standings and guided Pirates to third place in the Premiership.
This season the Sea Robbers won the MTN8 after defeating Bloemfontein Celtic 2-1 at the Moses Mabhida Stadium, while they trounced rivals Kaizer Chiefs 5-0 on aggregate in the semi-finals.
In the league Pirates are fifth with 13 points, thanks to three wins and four draws.