JOHANNESBURG – In a space of a week and a half, Mamelodi Sundowns and Orlando Pirates will compete in three competitions – the Absa Premiership, MTN8 and CAF Champions League – with the desire to win all three.
They probably won’t succeed in their ambitious quest but that desire to do so is what puts them ahead of their domestic competitors whose ambitions are confined to the South African borders.
Sundowns and Pirates’ ambitions to conquer the continent for a second time is reflected in the squads they have at their disposal and the investments they have made in their technical team.
Sundowns boasts the only South African to have been named CAF’s Coach of the Year, Pitso Mosimane, with an astute Manqoba Mngqithi assisting. They have also invested heavily in having three analysts along with a fitness trainer, Kabelo Rangoaga, Mosimane claims is the best in the country.
The result of that investment is that Sundowns can play over 50 matches in a season without their players burning out.
They go into those matches with extensive knowledge of their opponents due to the analysis and scouting that goes into preparing for every match. The Buccaneers also boast a strong technical team which is led by the well-travelled Micho Sredojevic who has extensive knowledge of the African continent having coached in various countries.
His assistants include Rhulani Mokwena, who is a Champions League winner, while Fadlu Davids is one of the brightest coaches around. The presence of a finishing coach has improved the club’s return in front of goal.
Their squad, which pushed Sundowns to the end last season, comprises of the best footballer in the country – Thembinkosi Lorch who scooped the Footballer of the Season and Absa Premiership Player’s Player of the Season awards.
When Sundowns and Pirates strengthen their teams, they do so with the aim of competing in the Champions League – Africa’s premier knockout competition. Last season they made history by becoming South Africa’s first representatives to give the country two teams in the group stage of the Champions League in the same season.
When their continental ambitions suffer, Sundowns and Pirates have squads good enough to challenge for the league which is why the league race has been a two-horse affair in the last two seasons.
Sundowns’ “failure” in the league has been finishing second, which still guarantees them continental football. Pirates have also been unimpressed with their second-place finishes in the last two seasons which has seen them invest and push to dethrone Sundowns in the fight for the championship.
Sundowns and Pirates look set to continue ruling the roost thanks to their ambition.
Chippa United, who host Sundowns tomorrow, and SuperSport United, who host Pirates on the same day, will feel the wrath of the two clubs who will be looking to bounce back from their first leg losses in the preliminary round of the Champions League stage.