Mamelodi Sundowns, Kaizer Chiefs have own little sprint race during league marathon

Mamelodi Sundowns, Kaizer Chiefs have own little sprint race during league marathon

Cape Town – The nation’s capital is in the grips of soccer fever and on Friday morning the “Sold Out” signs went up at Loftus Versfeld, the venue for Saturday’s crackerjack clash between hosts Mamelodi Sundowns and Kaizer Chiefs (start 3pm).

It speaks volumes about the popularity of the Dstv Premiership competition. This same afternoon, some 60km further down the N1, two of the world’s premier rugby nations, South Africa and New Zealand, will be playing at Ellis Park Stadium, and the “house full” signs have yet to be displayed.

The Sundowns-Chiefs rivalry has never matched the massive appeal of a Chiefs-Pirates showdown, but given the teams’ fortunes of late, there has been a huge spike in interest and all 51 000 Loftus tickets have been snapped up.

Chiefs have the biggest following. However, their fans have been through a lean spell in recent years and the trophy cupboard stands bare. After their midweek 3-0 win over Maritzburg United, Chiefs fans sense their team can be serious challengers for honours this season.

It has been a year since Chiefs won a game by a margin of three or more goals, after beating Chippa United 4-0 in October 2021.

In stark contrast, Sundowns went down 1-0 to unfashionable TS Galaxy at Loftus in a midweek clash.

Sundowns co-coach Rulani Mokwena was highly perplexed after the team’s shock defeat.

“What’s there to say? Seventy percent ball possession, 18 chances, four big chances, and then they get two chances – the one that they take on the transition, and then the other one with Vila (Sibusiso Vilakazi) one-on-one with Ronwen (Williams),” said Mokwena.

“When you do have a short turnaround time between matches, it’s good and it’s bad. The good in the sense that, particularly after a notso-good performance, you have an opportunity very soon to wash it out and get a good feeling. You want confidence and confidence breeds good performances.”

Chiefs’ supporters will be fired up knowing that despite dominating, Sundowns were unable to secure maximum points.

Arthur Zwane, the Chiefs coach, has also been encouraged by Sundowns’ defeat and promised to take the game to the opposition.

“We still have a long way to go,” said Zwane. “This will be our third game, so if we are now thinking about losing games, we are going to lose. However, we are going to go out there and express ourselves and take the game to them. They also have their shortcomings as a club. We will look at those loopholes and punish them.

“If you are going to allow Sundowns to be on the ball quite often and dictate terms, you’re going to get tired. At the end of the day, they can easily make you look like you don’t even know whether you’re coming or going,” he said.

“Look, we don’t have fear – we fear no one.

“We must ensure that the game is evenly balanced and that we pose a lot of threat to them this time around.”

There is every prospect of a classic midfield battle between Neo Maema and the energetic Yusuf Maart, who has become one of Chiefs’ best signings this season.


IOL Sport

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