Who can stop Mamelodi Sundowns? This is a question many PSL coaches are probably already asking themselves, even at this early stage of the season.
Gavin Hunt will give it a try today, when his Bidvest Wits side take on Pitso Mosimane’s Brazilians in the MTN8 final at Mbombela Stadium. Hunt and Mosimane are two of the most successful coaches in the domestic game and between them they have racked up five Premiership titles and six knockout trophies since 2004.
Yet over the past three seasons, it is Mosimane who has dominated this rivalry, winning two league titles, a Nedbank Cup and a Telkom Knockout with Masandawana, while Hunt has picked up nothing at the helm of the Clever Boys. Wits finished as runners-up to Sundowns in the league last season, pushing the Brazilians for much of the campaign, but fading towards the finish line, and ending up 14 points adrift.
This season, the Clever Boys have certainly strengthened, bringing in a raft of players as they aim to close a yawning gap. And they have made an impressive start to the new campaign, unbeaten as they head into today’s final. Yet Sundowns’ start had arguably been even more impressive, coping with a ridiculously busy schedule to reach both the Caf Champions League and MTN8 finals.
This is a Sundowns side well-versed in picking up silverware, and it is a Sundowns side that has also strengthened considerably from last season, their marquee signing coming from Wits, in the form of Bafana Bafana’s Sibusiso Vilakazi. Mogakolodi Ngele and Cuthbert Malajila went the other way as part of that deal, and there will be no little irony if one of these three players provides the decisive moment in today’s final.
It should be a fascinating tactical battle between two extremely good coaches and is likely to be decided by the narrowest of margins. Yet it is Sundowns, right now, who seem to have the mental edge over not just Wits, but all their rivals.