Sundowns look for key to unlock stubborn Richards Bay

January 5, 2023 0 By Cypher9ja



Mamelodi Sundowns will need to solve a defensive puzzle that very few have managed to master when they take on surprise package Richards Bay in a DStv Premiership clash on Friday evening at King Zwelithini Stadium in Umlazi.

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The Natal Rich Boys have exceeded expectations in their first season in the DStv Premiership, and are currently third in the table, eight points behind league leaders Masandawana, the odds-on favourites to capture a sixth league title on the spin.

Richards Bay have been rock solid at the back under co-coaches Pitso Dladla and Vasili Manousakis, conceding just six goals in 14 league matches thus far, with three of those coming in one match against Chippa United.

The likes of former Orlando Pirates defenders Ntsikelelo Nyauza and Abel Mabaso have been astute signings and with defensive statistics like this, it is not surprising that the KZN side are undefeated since losing to SuperSport United on August 24.

Since then, Richards Bay have kept seven clean sheets in nine matches, most recently on Saturday in a 1-0 win at home to Swallows FC.

Then again, it is hard to see anyone stopping Mamelodi Sundowns at the moment. Rulani Mokwena’s side have won eight league games in a row, are averaging two goals a game and have conceded even fewer (five) than Richards Bay.

They picked up a 2-0 win over Swallows FC themselves on Tuesday and Mokwena indicated how also meeting the Birds slightly helped Sundowns in their preparation for today’s match.

“Richards Bay played Swallows, so when we did the Swallows analysis (ahead of Tuesday’s game) it was like killing two birds with one stone,” said Mokwena.

“It is going to be a difficult game. You can see where they are onl the log … you can see their organisation, they are a difficult team to beat and it should be a very interesting match.

“They have some very good players and it is going to be a tough one.”

Fixture pile-up

With fixtures coming thick and fast in the wake of the Fifa World Cup finals, all teams face a hectic schedule, but Sundowns should be better prepared than most, having played season after season combining domestic with continental football.

“In the break, we had a simulated programme from a physical perspective, where we had games every two or three days. A lot of work hoes in behind the scenes, the coaches have worked very hard on the players’ mentality. It is also a space where Steve Komphela and Manqoba Mngqithi are very experienced, having run this kind of marathon way before I did,” added Mokwena.

“Then there is the support of the medical department and the fitness coach Sbu (Sibusiso Mahlangu).

“We have no complaints (about the schedule), we knew about it, we just go one game at a time, and try to do out best to continue to win.”

In today’s other game, Ernst Middendorp’s Swallows, in desperate need of points to move away from relegation trouble, host Chippa United at Dobsonville Stadium.