PREVIEW | Orlando Pirates out to derail Sundowns' dominance in blockbuster Nedbank Cup 'final'

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Tshegofatso Mabasa of Orlando Pirates celebrates scoring a goal. (Photo by Lefty Shivambu/Gallo Images)
Tshegofatso Mabasa of Orlando Pirates celebrates scoring a goal. (Photo by Lefty Shivambu/Gallo Images)

Arguably the two best sides this campaign will face-off when Orlando Pirates clash with a formidable Mamelodi Sundowns side in a blockbuster Nedbank Cup quarter-final clash at Loftus Versfeld on Thursday.

Reigning PSL champions, Mamelodi Sundowns, will be aiming to lay down a marker and send out a clear message of dominance to the rest of the league when they welcome Pirates.

The Buccaneers, newly-crowned MTN8 champions, have flattered to deceive so far as title challengers thanks to a confusing bout of inconsistency.

The Nedbank Cup offers a quick remedy for those inconsistencies with Josef Zinnbauer's side aiming to move a step closer to clinching their second piece of silverware of the season.

A win over an imposing and sometimes impenetrable looking Sundowns will also go far in showing that the gap in quality between the two sides is much closer than the PSL league table may suggest.

Both teams possess perhaps the best two squads in the country on paper with Sundowns especially having no equal in the abundance of quality they possess thanks to their unrivalled riches.

Thursday's match-up offers a fascinating contest that will see a number of key duels between the sets of players and the technical teams.

It will also be a fantastic tactical battle.

Where Sundowns hold the undoubted edge in the quality and depth of their playing squad, perhaps Pirates hold the slight advantage in the technical aspect with the new-look Sundowns coaching team yet to lift a trophy.

Thursday's battle could well be decided on which aspect will play the bigger role and which technical team can outsmart the other.

Orlando Pirates

The visitors come off the back of an impressive 3-0 win over Al Ahly Benghazi to move to the brink of qualifying for the CAF Confederation Cup knockout stages.

Josef Zinnbauer's side currently occupy fifth position in the PSL standings on 35 points - 11 points off leaders Sundowns - after 21 matches played.

The Buccaneers have suffered from inconsistency this season with key defeats at crucial moments when looking like the next best challenger to Sundowns' dominance.

In the last five matches played, Pirates have dropped points in a 1-1 draw at SuperSport United and a demoralising 1-0 defeat in the Soweto derby to Kaizer Chiefs in their last league outing.

Plagued by a number of injuries in recent weeks, Pirates will be hoping for the return of influential duo Thembinkosi Lorch (abductor strain) and Zakhele Lepasa (ankle injury).

Having already lifted the MTN8 trophy this season, Pirates will be aiming to clinch another trophy as a sign of intent to their determination to return to the top of SA football under Zinnbauer.

With a trophy under their belt, the Buccaneers will be aiming to also finish the season on a high by doing well in the remaining cup competitions, as the league is probably out of their reach.

Orlando Pirates players celebrate a goal. (Photo b

Orlando Pirates players celebrating (Gallo Images)

Mamelodi Sundowns

For Mamelodi Sundowns the definition of success for this season is simply complete domination domestically and on the African continent.

The three-time consecutive league champions look a certainty to make it four titles in a row and they are also one of the favourites to lift the CAF Champions League title.

Sundowns are fresh off qualifying for the knockout stages of the continental competition and will be one of the teams that opponents will look to avoid.

Under the new technical team of co-head coaches Manqoba Mngqithi and Rhulani Mokwena, along  with the assistance of Steve Komphela, Sundowns look a formidable outfit and maybe even stronger than ever.

The transfer window has also been a roaring success, possibly their best ever with new additions Kermit Erasmus, Rushine de Reuck and Peter Shalulile all making valuable contributions.

Shalulile has developed into one of the most dangerous strikers on the African continent and looks set to be the spark that fires Sundowns towards silverware.

In their last five fixtures, Sundowns have picked up three wins with a draw away to Al-Hilal and a defeat to Al Ahly Benhgazi in a dead rubber.

With their level of performances and the manner in which they are sweeping teams aside, it is a very real possibility that Sundowns could go on to lift every title available to them.

Success at the end of the season for Sundowns would look like multiple trophies and setting new records.

Mamelodi Sundowns players during training. (Photo

Mamelodi Sundowns during training (Gallo Images)

What the coaches said: (Rhulani Mokwena)

"With all due respect to the remaining sides and those teams who have competed in this competition so far, it is probably right to see this match as the final before the final. "Both are two very, very good sides, as Orlando Pirates are an extremely strong opponent with very, very good players who offer good weapons."
Rhulani Mokwena
Mamelodi Sundowns coach Rhulani Mokwena during a M

What the coaches said: (Josef Zinnbauer)

"At the moment, Sundowns have the best team in the league and are also one of the best sides in the Champions League. "So it will be good for me as a coach to see the reaction of the players to facing a quality side such as Sundowns."
Josef Zinnbauer
Josef Zinnbauer

Player to watch out for: (Mamelodi Sundowns)

Peter Shalulile

As mentioned earlier, Shalulile has developed into one of the best attackers on the continent and should be a leading contender for all the individual awards at the end of the season. The Namibian has amassed an impressive 14 goals with 6 assists in 26 appearances so far this campaign. Shalulile was again on the scoresheet and ended up scoring the winner in a 2-1 win over Chippa United in Sundowns' last fixture. They will be hoping that he continues his rich form and has a similar impact against Pirates.

Peter Shalulile

Peter Shalulile (Gallo Images)

Peter Shalulile stats


Player to watch out for: (Orlando Pirates)

Tshegofatso Mabasa

Tshegofatso "Sniper" Mabasa has delivered whenever called on by the Zinnbauer and has performed well since recovering from injury. The 24-year-old scored in an impressive display in the Buccaneers' 3-0 win over Al Ahly Benghazi in the Confed Cup. In just 12 starts so far this season, Mabasa has impressed in front of goal with four strikes. Quickly becoming a fan favourite, Mabasa is being tipped as the player who will put a dent in Sundowns' Nedbank Cup ambitions.

Tshegofatso Mabasa of Orlando Pirates celebrates a

Tshegofatso Mabasa celebrating scoring a goal (Gallo Images)

Tshegofatso Mabasa stats


Head-to-head

Head-to-head
02/01/2021    PSL     Mamelodi Sundowns 1 - 0 Orlando Pirates
11/08/2020    PSL     Mamelodi Sundowns 0 - 0 Orlando Pirates
15/01/2020    PSL     Orlando Pirates 1 - 0 Mamelodi Sundowns
01/04/2019    PSL     Orlando Pirates 0 - 0 Mamelodi Sundowns
10/11/2018    PSL     Mamelodi Sundowns 0 - 0 Orlando Pirates
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