Mamelodi Sundowns are ready to take on Orlando Pirates in the opening round of the semi final fixtures of the MTN8 competition on Saturday at Orlando Stadium, Soweto. Masandawana edged past SuperSport United 2 – 0 in the quarterfinals to reach the semifinals of this season’s Wafa Wafa competition, the first legs of the two-legged MTN8 semi finals is set to take place this weekend with the return leg to be hosted at the home of the Champions three weeks later.
The Soweto giants have climbed up the ladder in the DStv Premiership log standings to sit at number two, the home team have won three of their previous five league games, meanwhile Bafana Ba Style have proven to be dominant winning four of their five league encounters and occupy the first position. The Brazilians duo Peter Shalulile and Neo Maema were in attendance of the MTN8 Press Conference as they both looked ahead to Saturday’s MTN8 first leg clash with the Buccaneers, the namibian striker emphasized on the teams formula and plan leading to the mouthwatering clash, he said:
“To be honest it won’t be an easy game on Saturday, but the courage and belief is still there. We respect them and we will go out there to give our best, what we do at Sundowns is to just do our best. We don’t change things, we just make sure that we prepare well and our mindsets are ready for whatever is brought upon us. They are going to be very motivated coming into the game, but we need to stick to our plan and make sure that we get a positive result away from home. It’s very tricky, this home and away [because] you wanna go home at least with a win or having a goal but come Saturday we just have to go there as Sundowns players [and] as a team, do our best and just make sure that we come out with a win. ”
Maema added: “This one is going to be a great duel and it’s going to be a difficult match, but at Sundowns we are used to big matches and the one thing that we should always [do is] stick to our goals and to make sure that we defend the cup, because that’s the most important thing. There’s a culture at Sundowns that we want to win every football match and I don’t think the first-leg or second-leg is in question when it comes to the team performance. We are not getting into the head about the two fixtures, we just want to win both.”
The defending Champions have collected 19 points after 9 matches played in the new season, leading Ezimnyama Ngenkani with 5 points. Despite The Brazilians successful record against Pirates where they have won their last two home games 4-1 in their favor, and scored 13 goals in their last four battles, Shalulile is cautious of the threat the home team may present in the clash.
“This is a good season, it’s competitive with all teams coming out to win the League, they are out here to survive and out here to be in the top 8, especially Pirates. This season they have picked up their level to a point where you can see that they have great players.” Said Shalulile.
“The backline is difficult to score against, but the mark of a Champion, they knock on the door until they score. But as I’ve said, it won’t be an easy game but I believe that in every match that we play [with] big teams in this league we’ve managed to create chances. Come Saturday all that we have to do is to bury the chances that we get because in every match Sundowns are definitely going to create chances and it’s for us now as players upfront to make sure that we score goals.”
The 26-year-old Free State born star has taken advantage of various roles in attack that Masandawana have given him to take part in, Maema expressed the urgency and importance of being able to play in different positions. “As a footballer you have to adapt, be versatile and you also need to explore in other positions. It wasn’t easy for me during the preseason, I had to get used to it and the most important thing in that position is how the team performs and it’s not more about me. I had to adapt as quickly as possible because at Sundowns we have a lot of players and if I’m given the chance to play there then I have to do my best.”
Meanwhile his teammate Shalulile, who was the leading top goalscorer last season became the first forward to break the 20-goal mark in a decade in South Africa’s top flight with 23 goals. Shalulile looked back on the 2021-2022 DStv Premiership season and disclosed his goals for the new season.
“Last season it was the mercy of God, that’s why I scored all those goals, but as you know every striker has their target. First it’s to put the team first, then your own target comes second. This season it’s just about doing better than last season. “
Mamelodi Sundowns lock horns with Orlando Pirates in the MTN8 semi final leg 1 on Saturday, 1 October at Orlando Stadium. Kick off is at 15H30, live on SuperSport.