JOHANNESBURG — It will be about more than the rivalry when Premier Soccer League football business returns with an MTN8 quarter-final showdown between giants Mamelodi Sundowns and Kaizer Chiefs tomorrow at 3pm.
Both sides go into the match, scheduled for Loftus Stadium, under heavy pressure to get their respective seasons off to an ideal start.
Whereas Sundowns were dealt a sickening blow to their league and Nedbank Cup challenge last season, Amakhosi are still reeling from the fact that they ended the season empty-handed.
Success in the top-eight tournament would not only restore hope among their fans, but would also provide the strongest indication yet of how far both sides have fallen behind defending MTN8 champions Orlando Pirates.
Chiefs coach Stuart Baxter and his counterpart at Sundowns, Johan Neeskens, need to see further evidence that momentum gained in pre-season tournaments is building towards a better 2012-13 Premier Soccer League season.
Amakhosi have duly splashed cash in the transfer market — recruiting as many as five key players, including Morgan Gould and Eric Mathoho to shore up a shaky defence and their arrival has naturally heightened expectations.
Sundowns have also been characteristically busy in the market and will be expected to officially parade off-season signings Edward Manqele and Eleazar Rogers on a bigger and brighter cup competition stage.
“We have enough quality to make it in the MTN8 this season,” said Sundowns assistant coach Harold Legodi.
“We had a very good pre-season, where we trained for about two weeks in Swaziland. We also participated in a couple of pre-season tournaments and I think we achieved our objectives.”
A decision on the availability of Siphiwe Tshabalala is expected to be made today, but the chances of the Amakhosi midfielder featuring in the cup match are slim. Despite their Carling Cup defeat to Bucs last week, Chiefs have shown a sense of confidence and their conviction is steadily returning.
Assistant coach Doctor Khumalo has remained optimistic of victory, downplaying the possible absence of Tshabalala. This match is the pick of the weekend clashes and it should be a humdinger.