Defending Premiership champions Mamelodi Sundowns and last season’s runners-up Bidvest Wits are set to entertain in an enthralling MTN8 final on Saturday.
Sundowns have had to endure a hectic schedule of late as their MTN8 and league commitments have been supplemented by their involvement in the Caf Champions League. As a consequence, coach Pitso Mosimane has had to regularly reshuffle his side in a bid to keep them fresh. Nevertheless, the coach is expected to field his strongest possible lineup on Saturday as the side has no injuries or suspensions to negotiate.
Wits, meanwhile, will enter the game fully refreshed and ready having had a week to prepare following the postponement of their Premiership clash with Orlando Pirates due to protest action. The side will be near full strength for the tie, with young wing Phakamani Mahlambi the only notable absentee as he continues to recuperate from injury.
In an interesting side plot, the clash between the sides is likely to see Wits’ Cuthbert Malajila get a start against his former side, while Sibusiso Vilakazi, for whom Malajila was traded in part exchange, could start for Sundowns.
The sides have struggled to assert their dominance over the other in recent seasons with the each club having won two and drawn the fifth of their last five competitive Premiership fixtures. Nevertheless, Sundowns’ two successes came as they did the double over Gavin Hunt’s men last season, meaning they could hold the psychological edge in the clash.
Hunt was quick to point out the significance of Mahlambi loss as the wing provided much of the side’s dynamism.
‘He is running now and I would safely say in the second round he will be back around which will be around February since in January we will not be playing and this obviously gives him a longer break as well. Certainly for me he is our missing link, he is an X-factor,’ Hunt told KickOff.
Sundowns boss Pitso Mosimane, meanwhile, was bullish ahead of the fixture.
‘I have said also before the game of Chippa United that in my opinion we have a little bit of an edge because we know how to play these games,’ he claimed. ‘We normally don’t have butterflies in our stomachs when we are faced with a game that is a win at all cost,’ he concluded.
The action gets underway from the Mbombela Stadium at 17:00.