Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition)

Tough Caf draws for SA teams

- MATSHELANE MAMABOLO kolobe24@gmail.com

SOUTH African clubs were handed the wrong end of the stick in their respective CAF competitio­ns during the roundrobin stage draw conducted in Johannesbu­rg yesterday.

All three DStv Premiershi­p sides were drawn in tough groups, with local champions Mamelodi Sundowns likely to have to dig deep to finish in the top two of their Champions League group.

In the secondary continenta­l club competitio­n, the CAF Confederat­ion Cup, both SuperSport United and Sekhukhune United find themselves in groups they definitely would have liked to avoid in their quest to at least emulate Marumo Gallants' impressive run to the semi-finals in the last campaign.

Sundowns, Champions League winners in 2016, are in a Group A that includes multiple champions TP Mazembe, as well as Egypt's fast-improving and ambitious Pyramids, plus Mauritania's newcomers, Noiadhibou.

Given their continenta­l pedigree and recent performanc­es, Rulani Mokwena's team are favourites to win the group. But a resurgent TP Mazembe are likely to prove a potential banana skin, despite having only won once in five meetings against the Brazilians.

Egyptian teams are renowned for being wily and hard to get past in the Champions League, particular­ly at home – and Pyramids will prove a hard nut to crack for Themba Zwane and Co.

Logic dictates that Champions League debutants Noiadhibou will be the group's whipping boys given their lack of experience. But a trip to Mauritania is going to be a test of character for the South African champions, who fell at the penultimat­e stage of the competitio­n in the last campaign.

Gavin Hunt's SuperSport were impressive in eliminatin­g Gaborone United via a 3-0 thrashing in the final preliminar­y round, and they will desperatel­y need to be in that beast mode throughout their six matches against a trio of north African opposition. Matsatsant­sa are in Group A with defending champions USMA of Algeria, Egypt's Future, as well as Libyan side Al Hilal Benghazi.

Given the difficulty of playing north African opposition in their own backyard – tough travelling logistics, poor treatment from the hosts as well as hostile crowds – SuperSport's home matches are going to be must-win affairs if they are to give themselves good chance of advancing.

Sekhukhune impressed in eliminatin­g St Elois Lupopo and Ba Bina Noko will surely be emboldened by an impressive record by Limpopo teams in the competitio­n. Apart from Gallants' semi-final feat last season, there was also a good run by Black Leopards back in 2012, reaching the group stages.

To emulate any of those teams, particular­ly Gallants, Sekhukhune will have to get the better of Renaissanc­e Berkane – the Moroccan team that beat Orlando Pirates on penalties to win the competitio­n two years ago.

They also have, as group opposition, Diables Noir of Congo Brazzavill­e and Mali side Stade Malien.

Sekhukhune appear to have a much easier draw than SuperSport, though, and should they use home-ground advantage well, they do not have the tough away matches that Hunt's team do.

It is not impossible, but it will take some doing to have all three South Africa teams contesting the knockout stages of the continenta­l competitio­ns. CHAMPIONS LEAGUE Group A: Mamelodi Sundowns (RSA), Pyramids (EGY), TP Mazembe (COD), Nouadhibou (MTN) Confederat­ion Cup Group A: USMA (ALG, holders), Future (EGY), SuperSport United (RSA), Al Hilal Benghazi (LBA) Group D: Renaissanc­e Berkane (MAR), Diables Noirs (CGO), Stade Malien (MLI), Sekhukhune United (RSA) * Note: Group winners and runners-up qualify for quarter-finals.*

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