Nedbank Cup Final: Bloemfontein Celtic v Mamelodi Sundowns
By Leonard Solms
The last hurdle in Mamelodi Sundowns’ treble conquest awaits at Orlando Stadium at 8 pm on Saturday. A dangerous Bloemfontein Celtic side will be out to defy the odds once more.
Through financial struggles, changing of coaches, and speculation regarding the future of the club, Celtic have managed to finish in the top eight in back-to-back Premiership campaigns.
Sundowns, whose players will likely still be on a high after their smash-and-grab league success, need to come back to earth and refocus.
Experience gives Downs the edge
Fortunately, there is nobody in South Africa better-trained for the occasion than Masandawana under Pitso Mosimane.
Winning three league titles on the trot while juggling league and CAF Champions League commitments requires a motivated dressing room.
Sundowns boast not only this but also depth in abundance.
Their form has progressively improved since moving into the bio-bubble and their two best performances were arguably their last — 3-0 victories over Polokwane City and Black Leopards. Recent MultiChoice Diski Challenge graduate Promise Mkhuma, 20, started both.
Rivaldo Coetzee has slotted seamlessly into midfield, while Lebohang Maboe has rediscovered his scoring touch after what was largely a difficult campaign.
Maboe’s hat-trick against Black Leopards will undoubtedly have boosted his confidence and he is one to watch for the cup final.
Routes to the final
Sundowns booked their final place with wins over SuperSport United, Vaal University of Technology, Highlands Park and Bidvest Wits.
Meanwhile Celtic saw off AmaZulu, Maritzburg United, TS Sporting and Baroka.
Winning the treble at Orlando Pirates’ home would carry special significance for Masandawana.
They became the second team in South Africa’s history to win the CAF Champions League in 2016, following in the footsteps of the Buccaneers’ class of 1995. Pirates became the first team in the PSL era to win three domestic trophies in the same season in 2010-11 and repeated the feat the following campaign.
Once again, Sundowns have the opportunity to join them in the exclusive club and show that the era of unfettered Chiefs-Pirates dominance is finished en klaar.
As resilient as this Bloem Celtic side is, it is difficult to look past a Sundowns win.
Prediction: Mamelodi Sundowns Win 1-0