Kekana: Group stages non-negotiable

Sundowns are into the last qualifying round before the group stages and have DR Congo champions AS Vita standing as the hurdle in a two-legged contest that gets rolling this Sunday in Kinshasa.

The Brazilians have reached the group stages of this competition just twice – in 2000 and 2001 – but that has been in seven attempts of trying.

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Last year Sundowns lost 3-2 on aggregate in the first round to eventual winners TP Mazembe, while in 2007 and 2008 they came unstuck in the second.

In 2006 they were disappointingly knocked out by USCAFoot of Madagascar in the first round following a 3-3 aggregate result – with the Indian Ocean islanders progressing on away goals after scoring twice in Tshwane – and they were knocked in the second round by SS Saint-Louisienne from Reunion on a 5-3 aggregate in 1999.

Kekana feels this is the time to prove that they have the character to stand up amongst the big boys on the continent again.

“We really want to get into the group stages; this is something that we really need as a team,” Kekana tells KickOff.com. “For the sake of the profile of a team like Mamelodi Sundowns we really want to do well; not only on the domestic scene, but also in Africa.

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“We know it will be a difficult task, but I feel we have prepared very well since the beginning of the season. We are ready and we have been ready all the time.”

For all that has been said and all that is known about AS Vita, Kekana feels they will take the trip to Kinshasa this weekend as battle-hardened as ever.

“I would say we have seen the worst, so I think going to Vita now will be like a luxury for us because this is something that we have really prepared for.

“We have seen the worst from the beginning of this competition, but we cannot complain about everything so we just have to go there and play football. This is what we are going there for.”

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