Telkom Knockout News 7.11.2014 11:19 am

Sundowns out to end Dikwena whammy

FILE PICTURE: Vuyo Mere of Platinum Stars and Alje Schut of Sundowns during the Platinum Stars and Mamelodi Sundowns joint press conference at PSL Headquarters on November 06, 2014 in Johannesburg, South Africa. (Photo by Lefty Shivambu/Gallo Images)

FILE PICTURE: Vuyo Mere of Platinum Stars and Alje Schut of Sundowns during the Platinum Stars and Mamelodi Sundowns joint press conference at PSL Headquarters on November 06, 2014 in Johannesburg, South Africa. (Photo by Lefty Shivambu/Gallo Images)

Mamelodi Sundowns have a score to settle with Platinum Stars, and their Telkom Knockout semi-final showdown on Sunday provides the perfect battleground for unresolved issues.

Dikwena have been a bogey team for the Premiership giants in cup competitions, eliminating them from a tournament in each of the last three seasons.

This season, Stars dumped the Brazilians out of the MTN8 in the first round after a 2-1 victory in August.

Sundowns also crashed out in the quarterfinals of both the knockout competition and the Nedbank Cup with 2-1 defeats against Stars last year.

On a mission to end the voodoo, Sundowns captain Alje Schut said they had been preparing vigorously to overcome the Dikwena hurdle this time around.

“We want to win against them obviously. They are a very determined team and have great mental strength,” Schut said ahead of the clash at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium.

“They are able to focus on a game and they know us very well.”

Having last won a cup competition in 2008, beating Black Aces 1-0 in the Nedbank Cup, Schut said a final berth would put them on the cusp of ending their drought.

“It’s only two wins away and let’s go for it. They are a hard-running team, gutsy with quality upfront and solid in defence.

“The form we are in at the moment is quite good but we have to do better and raise our performance.”

Meanwhile, Stars captain Vuyo Mere said previous favourable results against the Brazilians would count for nothing on matchday.

“We have put those wins behind us. We are going to forget about the past and prepare for the match, giving them the respect they need,” Mere said.

As defending champions, Stars were fully aware that if they wanted to retain their title, they would have to beat some of the best teams in the country, he said.

“We also have players who know how to handle games of this magnitude and that is what we are paid to do.”

After a huge cash windfall last season from their double triumph — in the knockout and top-eight competitions — the players were motivated by the added financial bonus if Stars performed well, Mere said.

“If we win the cup you get a couple of bucks in the pocket so it’s a win-win situation for the club and the players,” he said.

“The guys know what’s at stake and we want to go all the way and defend our title.”

Mere backed Dikwena’s marquee signing from the Buccaneers, striker Ndumiso Mabena, to be an influential factor in their quest for a spot in the final.

“We all saw from the first couple of games in the league that Mabena is a great player,” Mere said.

“He is an incredible talent. I think he needed the confidence. There are players who need to be told how good they are.”

Mere felt Stars had provided Mabena with the platform to showcase his talent.

“At Pirates, he wasn’t playing much and that killed his confidence, but we have given him a platform to show his potential,” he said.

“We believe in him and have made him feel at home. People now are going to see what he is capable of.”

In the other semi-final, Orlando Pirates will return to action against SuperSport United at the Orlando Stadium on Saturday for the first time since captain and goalkeeper Senzo Meyiwa died.

He was shot dead during an apparent robbery in Vosloorus, Ekurhuleni, while visiting his girlfriend, singer and actress Kelly Khumalo, at her mother’s house on October 26.

– Sapa

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