Sundowns return to MTN action

By Drum Digital
01 August 2014

Having missed out on MTN8 participation in 2013, Mamelodi Sundowns coach Pitso Mosimane says his team is looking forward to returning to the first cup tournament of the season.

Sundowns take on defending champions, Platinum Stars, at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday in what will be the Brazilians' first taste of competitive action since being crowned Premiership champions in May.

"I think it's a motivation for the players because we didn't play this cup last year," Mosimane said ahead of the meeting with Dikwena.

"It's the quickest way to win a cup. How many games? Four. Four and then you win the cup.

"If you're there, you're there and you win. It's not the league but we respect the MTN8. We were not there last season, we want to win it and we believe we can win it."

The MTN8 is reserved for the top-eight teams from the previous league standings, with the top four each granted a home draw for the opening round.

Traditionally played a week before the start of the league season, the MTN8 brings with it a different challenge and Mosimane felt his team still had a long way to go before reaching full fitness and match sharpness.

Mosimane, who openly stated this week that Sundowns would make the league and Caf Champions League their priority this season, but the ever demanding Sundowns supporters regarded the top-eight competition as a "must win".

"The MTN8 is a tricky cup because, for me, it's a pre-season cup but in South Africa, you can't talk pre-season… you have to win," he said.

"There's bragging rights and supporters expect you to win.

"I don't think there's any team that is ready at this point in time. It's pre-season, some guys who are new are still struggling with the tactics that we do."

True to form, Sundowns have once again signed a host of new faces ahead of the new season, with the likes of Mame Niang, Luyolo Nomandela and Asavela Mbekile all joining the big-spending Brazilians.

Meanwhile, Lindokuhle Mbatha, who became one of the earliest acquisitions during the window, joined from Stars and is set to face his former employers for the first time.

Mosimane, however, ruled out wholesale changes to the team which carried through and guided Bafana Ba Style to their first league title in seven years.

"The core stays. You can't bring in all the new players and expect them to play the way you are.

"The core is there because that's important.

"We have to keep the integrity of the team, we don't want to start from zero."

As for Stars, the Rustenburg outfit will be hoping that an exodus of former stalwarts will not disrupt their new season.

Stars lost Henrico Botes, Benson Mhlongo, Issa Sarr, Siphelele Mthembu and Mbatha to South African clubs and coach Allan Freese will have a challenging time of keeping the faith within his ranks.

"We are a bit of a different team from last year with some new players, and our big task has been to try and get the new players used to our style of play as soon as possible," Freese said ahead of Saturday's clash.

"But we will keep playing as we have in the last few years which has proved successful for us, we might just change things a little bit here and there for certain games.

"Ultimately we will keep on attacking and keep on trying to win games with positive play."

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