Despite a couple of ordinary results recently, Sundowns are well capable of upping the tempo during championship time.
MAMELODI Sundowns co-coach Manqoba Mngqithi made a sombre admission following his team’s draw with AmaZulu in the DStv Premiership on Wednesday, saying their players showed signs of fatigue due to their heavy schedule.
But that shouldn’t by any means be taken as admission of weakness or vulnerability by their opponents who are also chasing the league title. After all, they’ll know that Sundowns are well capable of upping the tempo during championship time.
The Brazilians have won the league title for three seasons in a row. They juggled domestic and continental football where they had reached the knockout stage under the astute guidance of former coach Pitso Mosimane.
Of course, fellow title hopefuls Golden Arrows and AmaZulu who are second and third on the log standings and six points behind Sundowns who have two games in hand, are the fresher of the three teams, having only played the league and Nedbank Cup this season.
But, honestly, how far can their desire to reach the Promised Land – winning the league title for the first time in their existence – take them, compared to Sundowns who’ve done it for five times in the last eight years, despite playing in five competitions?
It might be easy to say that the tables have turned, given that Sundowns’ coaching trio – co-coaches Mngqithi and Rhulani Mokwena, alongside senior coach Steve Komphela – have never won the league on their own, but the core of the team has remained the same.
But it’s not only that. The seamless adaptation of personnel such as Peter Shalulile, Lesedi Kapinga, Aubrey Modiba and Mothobi Mvala have made the Brazilians even stronger – despite the fact that every team in top flight is still beatable.
Sundowns, though, have learnt that the hard way, unceremoniously losing to rookies Tshakhuma Tsha Madzivhandila in the penalty shoot-outs during the semi-finals of the Nedbank Cup last Sunday despite, as expected, dominating possession.
That was heart-wrenching, looking back at the footballing lesson they taught Orlando Pirates in the quarter-finals three days earlier. But any club which may think that the wheels have come off for Sundowns after the loss to TTM and draw with AmaZulu would be doing that at their own peril.
Remember, this is a team that has lost once in regulation time in domestic football this season – against Bloemfontein Celtic in the MTN8 quarter-finals, while they are unbeaten in 21 league games and are in the quarter-finals of the Champions League.