• Mokwena: I would think Pirates have a huge advantage

    Mamelodi Sundowns co-coach Rhulani Mokwena says it is clear that Orlando Pirates will head into Thursday’s Nedbank Cup quarter-final clash as the fresher of the two teams with possibly a huge advantage.

    The two giants of South African football meet at Loftus on Thursday night with a spot in the semi-finals of the competition and a matchup with Tshakhuma Tsha Madzivhandila (TTM) at stake.

    In the buildup to the clash, Pirates coach Josef Zinnbauer stated that Sundowns were the favourites heading into the game. Mokwena, though, disagrees as he believes the Sea Robbers could hold a massive advantage.

    ‘If you look at these two teams‚ it is clear which one goes into Thursday’s match fresher than the other‚’ Mokwena responded.

    ‘They have played five games in 30 days and we have played five games in 20 days‚ that already alludes to what we have. If you look at just over a week or so‚ Pirates will be playing their second match and we will be playing our third match.’

    The Buccaneers have played against Algerian side ES Setif‚ Nigerian giants Enyimba‚ Kaizer Chiefs and Libyan club Ahli Benghazi (twice) since 10 March.

    On the other hand, Masandawana have played eight matches in the same period – against Polokwane City‚ Stellenbosch‚ DR Congolese giants Tout Puissant Mazembe‚ Black Leopards‚ Sudanese side Al-Hilal Omdurman‚ TTM‚ Algerian outfit CR Belouizdad and Chippa United.

    ‘If there is any form of advantage‚ I would think Pirates have a huge advantage even in relation to the previous fixture they played on Sunday,’ Mokwena continued.

    ‘On Monday, they had what we call an invisible training session‚ which is about regeneration‚ massages and all those things to freshen up the squad up.

    ‘When they were recovering‚ we were playing against Chippa United and 48 hours after they recovered we were travelling from Gqeberha to Johannesburg,’ he added.

    ‘If you go into this fixture on Thursday with the advantage‚ it is very difficult to be the underdog. It could be physical‚ tactical or technical perspective‚ but it is what it is and it will have a huge influence on the performance of both teams.

    ‘We are not complaining and we understand that pressure is a privilege. We understand that we are here at Mamelodi Sundowns and here we don’t just compete but we have to dominate,’ he said.

    ‘When the players were offered contracts by the club‚ they knew the responsibilities‚ the schedule and that it is not always easy.

    ‘You can see how difficult it is to players like Rushine [De Reuck] who was used to playing maybe one match a week, but now has to transition and be consistent every two days to help the team. It goes to Peter Shalulile‚ but we give time to these players to transform and to settle a little bit and the best way to settle is by performances.

    ‘We are called and yet we are chosen and the chosen ones have to carry the pressure of being chosen. Being at Mamelodi Sundowns comes with pressure and heavy is the head that carries the crown.’