Themba Zwane: Mamelodi Sundowns reaping CAF Champions League benefits
Posted: 7 July 2017 Time: 08:30
Mamelodi Sundowns midfielder Themba Zwane believes they are reaping the benefits of the experience of playing in the CAF Champions League for three years in a row.
Sundowns are through to the last eight of the Champions League with a game to spare in their group, which has largely been down to the fact that they have won two – against AS Vita and Saint George – and drew one – against Esperance de Tunis – away in their pool.
Zwane says qualifying for the quarter-finals at the back of an unbeaten run away from home is the outcome of being familiar with the continent.
“It has built us to be strong physically and mentally. We now enjoy playing before those big crowds, when they [rival fans] sing they also motivate us. It is actually very nice that we are playing before those kind of crowds,” says Zwane, who unfortunately has to deal with the reality of empty seats when playing at home.
“We are used to it now [laughing]. There is nothing that we can do about that [empty stadiums at home]. Even though fans don’t come in numbers we will still make them happy,” he says.
As defending champions this year the 27-year-old has also had to deal with the challenge of being the team that is targeted by the opposition.
“Last year we were the underdogs but this year all the teams know that we are the defending champions so when they come to us they fight a lot. So it is very difficult and we must not relax because all the teams will be coming at us strong. There is more pressure on us as champions this year. They really come strong at us but mentally we know that every team that we meet obviously wants to beat us. Being the big team that we are we will fight for our place. I think overall we are getting confident,” he explains.
The Brazilians close off their group with an unusual Sunday evening (19h00) home match against DR Congo powerhouse AS Vita at Lucas Moripe Stadium.