Downs, Bucs are balanced

RUMBLE: Mamelodi Sundowns' David Kannemeyer. Pic. Lefty Shivambu. 03/12/06. © Gallo Images.
RUMBLE: Mamelodi Sundowns' David Kannemeyer. Pic. Lefty Shivambu. 03/12/06. © Gallo Images.

Sipho Mthembu

Sipho Mthembu

The past five seasons have been so close between powerhouses Mamelodi Sundowns and Orlando Pirates that it is almost impossible to call tonight's epic at Loftus at 7.30.

Pirates have won four of the last 10 games between them and Sundowns three, with three ending in stalemates.

But, trailing as they might be, Sundowns do it in emphatic style whenever they win these titanic clashes, as the margins show.

Of the 22 goals scored in these contests, Sundowns have 13 and Pirates nine, the bulk coming from games like the 2004-05 second round when the Brazilians ran riot, routing the Buccaneers 4-0 at home.

Who can also forget the 2001-02 season when Sundowns won both rounds, beating Pirates 3-0 away and 3-1 at home.

There has been only one cup meeting between the two giants and Sundowns won that Coca-Cola cup clash 3-1 in 2004 to draw the two teams level in all competitions in the last five seasons.

The above figures paint a picture of the balance of power over a period of time, but it is the last five games that might give a clearer picture of recent goalscoring form.

Sundowns, who have played three league and two CAF Champions League matches, have scored 15 goals and conceded three.

Pirates, on the other hand, have scored eight goals and conceded two.

But Sundowns will have to conjure up something special in the absence of Jose Torrealba, who scored five of those goals, and the doubtful Surprise Moriri, who has two.

"We have enough depth to plug the gaps," said Sundowns' coach Gordon Igesund on Monday. "I think Pirates have problems of their own."

In compen- sating for Torrealba's absence, Igesund threw Peter Ndlovu into the fray against Royal Leopards at the weekend and the former Zimbabwean captain reciprocated with a goal.

"I might also consider throwing in the tall Lungi [Ndlela]. Pirates are not the tallest of players," Igesund said.

Indeed, the short Bucs defenders had a torrid time containing lanky Swallows striker Mame Niang over a fortnight ago.

But if Igesund goes the long route, Downs' supporters should just forget seeing even 10 passes, as they will have to tailor their approach to suit Ndlela.

Pirates' Benedict Vilakazi has Esrom Nyandoro to deal with while Onyekachi Okonkwo's work rate will be tested by Downs' Godfrey Sapula.

Who will come unstuck between Jabu Pule and Vuyo Mere, Rudzani Ramudzuli and David Kannemeyer, if he passes a late fitness test?

Josta Dladla and Innocent Mdledle have a date and so do Lucky Lekgwathi and Lerato Chabangu.

Pirates' coach Bibey Mutombo's promise to his supporters was simple this week: "We are going to fight."