Our football writer previews the eagerly awaited MTN8 final clash between Wits and Sundowns on Saturday at Mbombela Stadium.
It’s a battle for the grand prize of R8 million when last season’s PSL champions, Mamelodi Sundowns, host runners-up Bidvest Wits in an MTN8 final showdown. Both teams have received a sum of R800 000 just for being in the tournament, but who wouldn’t want that extra 8 million bucks?
Wits will look to spoil Downs’ party, with the latter already guaranteed a minimum of R13.6 million in their CAF Champions League final against Zamalek. Gavin Hunt’s charges suffered defeats on both occasions in the PSL last season against Pitso Mosimane’s side and will look for a turnaround performance against the Brazilians. Both sides have never lifted the MTN8 trophy, so it’s do or die in the final. Wafa Wafa!
MTN8 Final | Saturday 1 October | Mbombela Stadium | 17:00
To Win (90 mins)
Bidvest Wits 17/10 | Draw 23/10 | Mamelodi Sundowns 29/20
With their weekend match against Orlando Pirates postponed and no midweek games to worry about, Bidvest Wits are well-rested coming into this tie. The same cannot be said for Sundowns, who were jam-packed with fixtures building up to the final.
Mr Hunt will know what Sundowns are capable of on their day, after losing both matches against the Brazilians last season (1-0 at the Bidvest Stadium and 4-2 at the Lucas Moripe Stadium). The Clever Boys have had arguably the harder run of the two sides in the final, beating Orlando Pirates 2-1 in their first match and then humbling Cape Town City to a 3-0 scoreline on aggregate.
Gavin Hunt’s Students remain undefeated this season and will look to bag their first ever MTN8 trophy. Wits have shown that they have more than just one ‘go-to guy’, with Eleazar Rodgers, Daine Klate, Xola Mlambo, Gabadinho Mhango and Elias Pelembe all looking sharp so far this season. One player looking to teach Sundowns a lesson, though, is Cuthbert Malajila – who was part of the swap deal with Sibusiso Vilakazi going the other way. The Zimbabwean forward scored twice against Wits when playing for Downs last season, now he will look to pull one over his former employers if he is given the chance.
Wits know about the task at hand, and will have the upper hand in the final with the Mbombela Stadium named as the venue – a place the Students have used as a second home ground.
Onto Mamelodi Sundowns, who have been exceptionally brilliant in recent times. Bafana Ba Style lifted the PSL trophy last season – managing a record 71 points and also bagged the Telkom Knockout Cup. Since then, they’ve made it to the final of the CAF Champions League and MTN8.
The Brazilians’ success has led Pitso Mosimane to believe that this is the best Sundowns team in their history.
"People have been saying this has been the best Sundowns ever. I said which one is the best Sundowns ever? Which one? The one that went to the finals? We are in the final now," said Mosimane.
"Did they get 71 points which is the best Sundowns ever now? That's the question. I think the story of the best Sundowns ever must be revisited now. I know you have had Feutmba and Chukwus but they never beat Chiefs. We beat Chiefs 3-1 in the final,” Mosimane continued.
I may not have seen every Sundowns team since they were founded back in 1970, but it’s hard to imagine any Downs team better than this. Khama Billiat was the star of the show the last time these sides met, scoring in both encounters last season.
Billiat, Keagan Dolly and Leonardo Castro have formed one of the best attacking trios in African football, but with Castro still ruled out injured, Downs can turn to a player that Wits will know very well.
Sibusiso Vilakazi spent seven years at Wits and will look to bury Hunt’s side in the final. With Vila roaming in behind the opposing defence, Billiat and Dolly will have more space and time to do what they do best – hurt the opposition.
Verdict: Sundowns (29/20)
With Sundowns’ jam-packed fixture list all but over, Pitso Mosimane’s charges will be much more relaxed, knowing that their CAF Champions League final is two weeks away from this encounter.
Gavin Hunt’s Students were taught a lesson by Sundowns last season and the Brazilians are tipped to pull one over their opponents once more. Sundowns are a good bet to lift the cup at 17/20, but my money will be on a 90 minute win for Pitso’s charges at 16/10.
Written by Jesse Nagel @Hollywoodbets