Wednesday Apr 14, 2021. 12:00
Mamelodi Sundowns and Orlando Pirates will battle for a place in the semifinals of the Nedbank Cup when they meet at the Loftus Versfeld Stadium in Tshwane on the evening of Thursday 15 April.
With both teams battling busy schedules which includes participating in the CAF Champions League and CAF Confederation Cup respectively, this domestic clash has been put on the back burner.
But, with the chance to face top-flight strugglers Tshakhuma Tsha Madzivhandila in Sunday’s semifinal and then either Chippa United or lower league Pretoria Callies in next month’s final, many see this clash as one which will decide the Nedbank Cup champions for this season.
Sundowns come into the clash on the back of a 2-1 away win over Chippa earlier this week which stretched their unbeaten DStv Premiership run to a record 20 matches this season, while they also topped their group in the Champions League. In short, the Brazilians start as favourites to continue on their quest of winning a second successive Nedbank Cup.
Despite this, co-coach Manqoba Mngqithi wants to see his team sharpen their play in front of goal: “We ended up having to stretch the team the whole way knowing very well that we still have another game on Thursday,” he complained after Monday’s win over Chippa.
He added, “We can do more in terms of our finishing, I don’t think we are clinical enough. The intensity was good, the passing game was good, but the finishing was not up there.”
Pirates are also in fine fettle after racking up a 3-0 home win over Al Ahly Benghazi in the Confederation Cup this past Sunday, and they will have enjoyed an extra day’s rest and preparation time compared to their opponents.
The Buccaneers’ coach Josef Zinnbauer is hoping to have more players return to availability for the clash with ‘Downs: “We have a special game against the best team in the league. For us it is important to get players back. We can see how many games we have had, with players travelling and having to play every two or three days. We need other guys so we can change the starting line-up.”
In head-to-head terms, Sundowns and Pirates have met in 28 previous cup matches, with each side claiming nine outright wins. Bucs came out on top in the teams’ last Nedbank Cup meeting in April 2016, winning 2-0 after extra time.
However, the Brazilians were victors when the teams last met in the domestic league in January of this year, winning 1-0 at home thanks to a goal from defender Brian Onyango.