Daily Dispatch

Mosimane unsure if Downs are ready to face Wits in semifinal

First choice Ricardo Goss and Brandon Peterson sidelined


Pitso Mosimane is not “brave enough” to declare Mamelodi Sundowns ready for Saturday’s Nedbank Cup semifinal against Bidvest Wits at Orlando Stadium‚ answering quite pointedly on that question: “I don’t know.”

Mosimane‚ in his online press conference ahead of Saturday’s double header return to football from a five-month suspension due to Covid-19‚ listed definite and niggling injuries that have arisen from unpreceden­ted circumstan­ces and uncertaint­y over the return date.

“It’s our new normal life. The position that we have never ever been in‚ in our lifetime‚” Mosimane said.

“So for me to tell you‚‘We are ready‚ we know what to do‚ we know how we’re going to handle this ’— I’m not brave enough to say that.

“But I can tell you what I know‚ which is that we started the wrong part of training thinking we were starting on July 18. And then we overloaded players and got some injuries.

“And then we thought maybe it was August 1. And that date was just a date. And then we changed our focus back to where we are now‚ which is

August 8.

“So you have got to understand that we prepared the team wrong at the very beginning‚ because we were preparing quickly‚ for the games to start in 10 or 12 days from resuming training on July 3,” he said.

“... The next two days we’ll make an assessment if Ali Meza is available. Anele Ngcongca is not training‚ Ricardo Nascimento and Denis Onyango have got niggling injuries. Then we had the players who could not train because they tested positive for Covid-19.

“There were players who had flu because it’s winter. Mauricio Affonso is stuck in Uruguay. Thapelo Morena is there but we don’t want to risk him yet.”

The Downs coach described the strange new life of football.

“For any team to have such a long time out‚ then training in small groups‚” he said.

“We have done only one video analysis. And that’s with social distancing. You wait for a certain time because you can’t be in a closed room‚ so we do it outside‚ when there’s no reflection of the sun‚ between 5pm and 6pm.

“And it’s cold then‚ and players can get flu. So we did it once and the doctor stopped it.

“You’ve got to understand how strange football is in Covid-19. We don’t have team spirit in the camp.

“We eat within two hours — this one pops in and eats‚ this one goes out. Sometimes you are in the dining hall alone‚ and where are your colleagues you always see?

“There are a lot of things. You can say I’m making excuses. And maybe you don’t want to hear that. Maybe you just want to know if we are ready to play,” asked Mosimane.

“And I can answer that quickly if you want. Really‚ I don’t know. Let’s see in the football under Covid-19 if we’re ready.

“I’ve got my expectatio­ns from what I’ve seen of football under Covid-19. So I can presume. We’ll have 11 players on the pitch‚ and we’ll have five subs.

“We’ll have all the protocol of Covid-19 observed‚ and we will play.”

Baroka FC face Bloemfonte­in Celtic in Saturday’s 2pm semifinal‚ with Sundowns and Wits meeting at 7.15pm

Brighton Mhlongo will get a rare run-out for Bidvest Wits as they return to profession­al football with their Nedbank Cup semifinal against Mamelodi Sundowns at Orlando Stadium on Saturday.

Wits coach Gavin Hunt told an online press conference on Thursday he has had similar injury problems to Sundowns counterpar­t Pitso Mosimane as a result of the uncertaint­y of the return date for football.

Hunt has one of his two firstchoic­e goalkeeper­s this season‚ Ricardo Goss‚ still out for five games of an eight-match suspension he received with Sameehg Doutie for an assault on referee Masixole Bambiso in a 2-0 away defeat to Cape Town City in January.

The other‚ Brandon Peterson‚ is injured.

Mhlongo, 29‚ the former Orlando Pirates keeper who has become something of a forgotten man with one appearance in two seasons at Wits‚ will get a chance between the posts in the Clever Boys’ games in the Gauteng biological­ly safe environmen­t (BSE).

“Goss is out because he’s still got the five-game suspension. Brandon is out as well‚” Hunt said.

“Brighton has to play. We have also brought our Diski [reserve team] goalkeeper up‚ whom I haven’t seen much of.”

Hunt‚ like Mosimane‚ faced challenges trying to rush players back from 4½ months in lockdown for an initial proposed return-to-action date for the Premier Soccer League (PSL) of July 18.

While some PSL coaches have said that‚ with a short training period and no friendlies‚ their first few games in the BSE would effectivel­y be warm-ups‚ Wits can have no such luxury.

They follow Saturday’s semifinal against Sundowns with Premiershi­p games against Kaizer Chiefs at Orlando on Wednesday and then Orlando Pirates at Ellis Park next Saturday August 15.

“We tried to get the players ready by the 18th‚ which was a very short time we had when we came back‚” Hunt said.

“We had a similar thing [to Sundowns] — obviously players breaking down after a day or two‚ pushing them at training to put in a bit extra and trying to do game preparatio­n more than a preseason type of training.

“Thabang Monare and Gift Motupa are struggling a bit. Mxolisi Macuphu got hijacked this week‚ and his car stolen‚ so I don’t know [if he can play].

“Elias Pelembe hasn’t come back. The players who tested positive for Covid-19 have only had four days’ training, but we’ll have a team out.

“Are we ready for Saturday? I would think we’re a week or two from being ready.

“But will it be warm-up games? No — we have to just play straight away and try to see how long you can last.

“If you last 50‚ 60 minutes‚ obviously then your mental approach has to be good.”

Baroka FC and Bloemfonte­in Celtic play the early semifinal in Saturday’s double-header at Orlando at 2pm‚ with Sundowns meeting Wits at 7.15pm.

 ?? Picture: LEFTY SHIVAMBU/GALLO IMAGES ?? NEW NORMAL: Pitso Mosimane has found it challengin­g to conduct training sessions in small groups.
Picture: LEFTY SHIVAMBU/GALLO IMAGES NEW NORMAL: Pitso Mosimane has found it challengin­g to conduct training sessions in small groups.
 ?? Picture: GALLO IMAGES/ SYDNEY SESHIBEDI ?? RARE START: Brighton Mhlongo of Wits during the media open day at Sturrock Park in Johannesbr­ug.
Picture: GALLO IMAGES/ SYDNEY SESHIBEDI RARE START: Brighton Mhlongo of Wits during the media open day at Sturrock Park in Johannesbr­ug.

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