Jonty Mark

By Jonty Mark

Football Editor

Three things to look out for in SA football this weekend

Sundowns face a tricky trip to the DRC and the Carling Black Label Knockout throws up some interesting semifinals.

Can Sundowns get out of Lubumbashi unscathed?

Mamelodi Sundowns and TP Mazembe, seen here facing off in the Champions League group stages in Tshwane in 2021, will be up against each other in the same competition in Lubumbashi on Saturday Picture: Sydney Mahlangu/BackpagePix

TP Mazembe are one of the most successful sides in Caf Champions League history, with five titles, but right now they are a bit of a faded force on the continent. The DR Congo powerhouse have suffered because financial problems in their domestic league – the entire 2022/23 season in the DRC had to be cancelled – and have not won a continental trophy since lifting the Caf Confederation Cup for a second season in a row in 2017.

Still, Lubumbashi is never an easy place to visit, and Masandawana will have to be at their best if they are to pick up three points in their Champions League group stage meeting with Mazembe on Saturday.

The last time these two sides met, in the group stages of the 2020/21 Champions League, Sundowns beat Mazembe home and away. A repeat of that will do Rulani Mokwena’s side just fine, and they should have plenty of belief following their triumph in the inaugural Caf African Football League.

Galaxy’s Ramovic would be better off focusing on AmaZulu

Sead Ramovic celebrates as TS Galaxy knock Mamelodi Sundowns out of the Carling Knockout. Picture: Dirk Kotze/Gallo Images

TS Galaxy head coach Sead Ramovic had a rant about Mamelodi Sundowns and Rulani Mokwena this week that seemed a little pointless, given that he was talking about a match two rounds earlier in the Carling Black Label Knockout.

Ramovic clearly still holds a grudge over the fact that Mokwena did not give Galaxy enough credit for beating Masandawana in the last 16. Whatever the merits of this argument, the Galaxy head coach would surely have been better off turning his focus exclusively to Sunday’s Carling Knockout semifinal against AmaZulu.

The Rockets may never get a better chance of repeating their knockout success in the 2019 Nedbank Cup, when as an NFD side, they stunned Kaizer Chiefs to lift the trophy. With Chiefs, Sundowns, Orlando Pirates and SuperSport United all out of this season’s Carling Knockout, the draw is wide open, and Galaxy’s clash with an improving AmaZulu should be a fascinating one.

Can steady Stellies break the semifinal barrier?

Steve Barker will hope to finally guide his Stellenbosch side to victory in a cup semifinal. Picture: Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images

Steve Barker has done a sterling job with Stellenbosch FC, as they have consistently punched above their weight in the DStv Premiership since gaining promotion in 2019, as well as making some impressive runs in the cup competitions. Last season, they made it all the way to the Nedbank Cup semifinals, beating Mamelodi Sundowns in the quarterfinals, only to lose to Sekhukhune United in the last four. This season, they have already played in the MTN8 semfinals, where they were edged out by Orlando Pirates on the away goals rule.

Richards Bay are their opponents in Saturday’s Carling Knockout semifinal, with the KZN side taking down Moroka Swallows and Orlando Pirates on their way to the semifinals, despite their struggles in the DStv Premiership. Stellenbosch hammered Cape Town Spurs 3-0 on Tuesday to move to fourth in the top flight, and will be favourites going into this game, but will have to make sure they can get over the pyschological barrier that semifinals can become.

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