Shrewd Chippa United coach Dan “Dance” Malesela has already started playing mind games ahead of his team’s crunch MTN8 semifinal against Mamelodi Sundowns in Port Elizabeth on Sunday.
Malesela has been around the game long enough to know that he will need to use every trick in the book if he is to topple the defending Premier Soccer League champions, Sundowns.
Showing great guile and awareness, Malesela has cleverly installed his team as the underdog for the fixture, which is expected to draw 30 000 fans.
Malesela has described this clash as a students versus experience game and has made a great show of the fact that he has labelled his team as the students.
Chippa have made a red-hot start to the new season, beating Free State Stars 2-1 in their opening PSL match and then following that up with a 2-0 away win over Platinum Stars in the MTN8 quarterfinals to reach this weekend’s semifinal at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium.
While his focus is probably on league glory, the wily coach knows that there is nothing like a good cup run to whip the home fans up into a state of frenzy.
Faced by the silky skills of the “Brazilians”, Chippa will have to be at the top of their game and cool heads will be needed if they are to ward off the visitors.
For the statistically-minded, there are a number of firsts riding on this game.
Chippa have never managed to subdue Sundowns in any form of competition so it will be a major feather in their caps if they can walk away with a win.
In addition, it is the first time that the Chilli Boys will be turning out in a semifinal at any level of the South African domestic game.
It is unlikely that Downs coach Pitso Mosimane will be lulled into a false sense of security by Malesela’s underdog tag.
The former Bafana Bafana coach has already identified Chippa as the dark horses and the team to look out for this season.
If Chippa want to make history and advance to the final, it is imperative they take full advantage in the first leg before what will be a daunting decider in Mamelodi.