Highlanders next on Sundowns’ menu
Punch Masenamela of Mamelodi Sundowns
Venue: Mavuso Sports Centre
Entrance Fee: E20
Visiting South African side Mamelodi Sundowns will flex their muscles against Mbabane Highlanders tonight in their second practice match since arriving in the country on Thursday.
Highlanders will be kicking a ball for the first time in an official match since they started their pre-season training a fortnight ago.
Interim coach Happy Simfukwe will be leading the ‘Bull’ in what will be the perfect practice match for his side as they look to partake in the season’s opener, the Telecom Charity Cup, after missing out last season.
This will also be Simfukwe’s chance to prove to the perplexed Highlanders fans that the team can compete without star midfielder Hloniphani Ndebele, who signed with Manzini Sundowns last week.
On the other hand, Mamelodi Sundowns coach Johan Neeskens will be all set to lead his side to another massive victory after Sunday’s 4-0 humiliation of reigning league champions Mbabane Swallows.
After resting the crème de la crème of players, which include midfield maestro Teko Modise and mercurial winger Lebohang Mokoena for the better part of the Sunday match, Neeskens will most likely throw them into the fray from the onset against Highlanders this evening.
That could prove to be a tough task for the side known as the aristocrats of Swazi football. The capital city giants need to devise a plan on how to stop the deadly quartet of Modise, Mokoena, Punch Masenamela and Elias Pelembe, who in fact, in the game against Swallows, scored three goals between them – never mind the fact that they were brought into the game as late second half substitutes.
In veteran captain Mlungisi ‘Madzala’ Ngubane, Highlanders have a leader who is capable of lifting the players’ spirits when the chips are down and even go on to make sure that they don’t get overawed by the occasion of facing Sundowns’ stars.
With burly striker Msimisi Ncanywa at their disposal, ‘Landers could spring their Pretoria opponents a surprise or two. This will also be a chance for the Bull faithful to see their new signings in action.
These two sides have rather ironic similarities. Both finished in fourth place in their respective leagues and were also beaten in the final of their respective league’s major knockout competitions despite being favourites – the Nedbank Cup for Sundowns and the Swazi Bank Cup in Highlanders’ case.
While most players are still rusty from the long pre-season layoff, a game filled with action from both sides will be expected to thrill the supporters. From Sundowns’ quick, fluid passing game to Highlanders’ strong counter attack game, this evening’s match is one not to be missed.
The game will also be Sundowns’ last before travelling to Nelspruit where they will face Sivutsa Stars in the Mbombela Super Cup first semifinal on Sunday.
Players to watch:
Highlanders: Msimisi Ncanywa and Mlungisi ‘Madzala’ Ngubane
Sundowns: Teko Modise and Punch Masenamela