Nedbank Cup: Orlando Pirates fresher than Mamelodi Sundowns – Mokwena refutes Zinnbauer assessment

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The former Platinum Stars assistant coach explained why Masandawana should not be considered as the favourites

Mamelodi Sundowns co-coach Rhulani Mokwena has claimed that Orlando Pirates will be fresher than his side when the two Gauteng giants collide on Thursday. 

Masandawana will play host to the Buccaneers in the Nedbank Cup quarter-final match at Loftus Versfeld Stadium and the winner will face Tshakhuma Tsha Madzivhandila (TTM) in the semi-finals on Sunday.

Mokwena was responding to Pirates head coach Josef Zinnbauer, who recently stated that Sundowns were the favourites heading into the eagerly anticipated match. 

“If you look at these two teams‚ it is clear which one goes into Thursday’s match fresher than the other‚” Mokwena said on Sowetan.

“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 March 10.

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.”

Pirates’ most recent game was against Al Ahli at their home ground, Orlando Stadium on Sunday, while Sundowns faced Chippa United in Gqeberha on Monday. 

“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.”

Both Sundowns and Pirates are currently juggling their Caf club commitments with local football as Masandawana are participating in the Champions League, while Bucs are competing in the Confederation Cup.

However, Mokwena, who was part of the Pirates technical team between 2017 and 2019, insisted that they are not complaining about their hectic fixture list. 

“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.”

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