player swap fuels rivalry

Linda Moreotsene

Linda Moreotsene

SuperSport United coach Gavin Hunt, whose side will be engaged in an early season derby with Mamelodi Sundowns on Sunday, readily admits that dismantling the star-studded Downs will be a daunting task for his team.

The two meet in the first leg of the MTN 8 semifinal at Super stadium on Sunday at 3pm.

A rivalry has brewed between these two over the past few years, and when the transfer period resulted in players from both teams indulging in a bit of floor-crossing, the situation was ripe for speculation.

In that business transaction, Brent Carelse and Oscar Ntwagae of Downs were swapped for Katlego Mphela and Siboniso Gaxa.

Still, Hunt is confident he has a versatile, dynamic bunch of players at his disposal, specially hand-picked to United requirements. The PSL champions are confident they are more than capable of handling a skilful Downs, renowned for their attractive brand of football.

"Our approach will be key, and if we stick to what we know, what they do really will not affect us. We just have to worry about our game," said Hunt.

Back in April, Carelse put two past United and ironically Gaxa scored United's consolation goal in a 3-1 league win to Downs. They have since met in pre-season tournaments, but those matches were not as intense as this one, and there was no R8 million prize to fight for.

While he has found it "weird" to be on the other side of the fence, Carelse would still like nothing better than to score against Brian Baloyi. He relishes the chance of facing guys who were his comrades just two months ago.

"The stakes are high for both teams, and without giving much away, it is going to be really tough,' said Carelse.

He said he does not anticipate any major change in how he has been used before. Asked if he had a few tips to pass on to present mentor Hunt, Carelse laughed.

"Coaches can see for themselves what the other team is made of, so no, he does not need me to tell him anything about the opposition," said Carelse.