Mamelodi Sundowns prepare to take over the “Calabash” on Sunday when they do battle with Kaizer Chiefs at the FNB Stadium.
Masandawana have successfully defended their Premier Soccer League title for the 12th time and booked their spot in the final showdown of the KeYona Cup competition to be played at the end of May. According to Downs Co-Coach Manqoba Mngqithi, the reigning champions still have a lot to play for despite their recent milestones in domestic league competition:
“For us at Sundowns we don’t have any dead rubber because the pride of the club is always at stake. Even in a friendly match we go to that match with the same mentality that we must win at the end of the day and we don’t want to disappoint our supporters as well, [because] we have a responsibility to the yellow nation to make sure that we always represent them with pride, dignity and honor and that’s why all these matches that are left as a team we would want to win all of them.”
“It’s very important for us and also to better our benchmarks, last season we got 67 points, the last time we got a very good margin on the log and it was 71 points. We can no longer arrive at 71 points but at least if we can arrive at 70 points it will still be good so we are going to give this game the respect that it requires. We also feel it’s important to urge our supporters to come in numbers because this looks like it’s that match where now we are also going to fight for Calabash, to see who is the boss in that space.”
“I think that it is very important for our supporters to understand that this game has got those connotations now that we have to go there with the mentality to take over the Calabash. We’ve done very well in that space in the Champions League, but now we are meeting the real owners of the stadium and it’s a game that becomes very important in that space. The league is not the most important at this stage, what’s more important is to make sure that the name of Sundowns is engraved in that stadium and everybody understands that we also take it as our home venue.”
With less than a year since his return for a second spell in charge of Amakhosi, the Soweto club announced the departure of head coach Stuart Baxter who faced The Brazilians in the MTN8 quarter finals last year before falling to a 2-0 defeat in Pretoria during the DStv Premiership encounter. Coach Manqoba showed admiration for the new commanders in charge at Naturena.
“I think that Arthur [Zwane] and Dillon [Sheppard] have done very good work also encouraged by the fact that they are really bringing in those youngsters that have done really well in the previous season, which is very encouraging for all of us as South Africans. We always believed that players like [Nkosingiphile] Ngcobo had really shown that they are ready to showcase their talents at the highest level and when you see all these other players that are coming back, already you can see the style of play is totally different.”
“They are building from the back, they are very adventurous and coming on to you, there are lots of passes in the game, if you check their average passes now they’ve improved in leaps and bounds – already that says that the style of play is completely different from what we have experienced in the past matches that we have played against them. But we still believe that Sundowns has got the capacity to go in that match and deliver an A-Game and win the match. We know we are playing a big match on Sunday, we are all looking forward to it, the players are eager to play this match.”
“The technical team is doing all it can to make sure that we deliver the game to the players in terms of profiling the opponents and making sure that they understand everything that can be expected in the match that we are playing on Sunday. The analysts are also in that space, we are taking this game the same way as any other match, but we fully understand that playing against a big team requires a little bit more from all of us to make sure that everybody understands what is expected of him.”
Coach Manqoba concluded with determination to win in Soweto in front of the Tshwane giants’ supporters. He said, “At this stage I can guarantee you that the only thing that we need is to have the Yellow Nation behind us, supporting us because we are going there to deliver an A game, we are going there to give our best and we believe our best is always enough to give us the result that we require, though we are not saying it’s gonna be an easy match, we fully understand. But we are hyped up and we psyched up to go to this match with the mentality to want to win it.”