Xoki talks up AmaZulu's chances against Sundowns: 'One moment can change the game'
Revamped AmaZulu face a serious examination of their ambitions this season when they travel to Pretoria to tackle champions Mamelodi Sundowns at Loftus on Sunday afternoon.
AmaZulu were full value for the points they earned in the 2-0 win against Black Leopards in their last league match at home in October and defender Tapelo Xoki (previously Nyongo) is keen to see his team build on this.
The trouble is the Durban side have struggled to beat the 10-time Premiership champions in recent times‚ highlighted by their three straight defeats in all competitions against the Brazilians last season.
Xoki said there is renewed confidence in the camp under a fresh management structure led by the club's new owner and businessman Sandile Zungu.
“In every match you’ve got to have confidence and confidence comes as a result of good [performances]‚” said the defender who’s featured in every minute of Usuthu’s previous three league games against Orlando Pirates (1-1)‚ TS Galaxy (1-0 defeat) and Leopards this season.
“So we have to keep that positive mentality in the team. It’s a big game and it’s three points up for grabs‚” said the 25-year-old centre back.
“I know Sundowns will want to get the three points but we also want three points. So we’ve got ambitions for the season and we know what we need to do.
“Such games are very important and we’ve haven’t been registering points away from home.
"It’s only our second away game. We did not do well in our first game (against TS Galaxy)‚ so we have to make sure that what we learnt from the first game we apply to this game.
“It’s a game of small margins like we've known in the previous games.
"One moment can change the game‚ we have to make sure we apply ourselves correctly and play the game to the best of our abilities and play with confidence.”
Xoki said their win against Leopards showed that the refurbished team boasting Luvuyo Memela‚ Siphiwe Tshabalala‚ Augustine Mulenga and many others among the new recruits is starting to gel under coach Ayanda Dlamini.
“It’s very important that we pick up from where we left off [against Sundowns]‚” said Xoki.
“We’re away [from home] and it’s a different ball game altogether.
"[We are] playing against a team that we know is competing for the league‚ a team that are champions‚ a team that’s not easy to play against‚ but we have to back ourselves.
“We must make sure that we get the momentum going because we must try and build on the result we got in our last game.”
Sundowns are currently top of the log after winning two and drawing one in the first three games under the coaching trio of Manqoba Mngqithi‚ Rulani Mokwena and Steve Komphela.
AmaZulu last beat Sundowns in the 2018-19 season where they actually stole four incredible points against their more illustrious opponents.
They beat Sundowns 2-0 away in January 2019 with their two former players Ovidy Karuru and Jabulani Ncobeni on the score sheet.
In the first round of that season‚ in March 2018‚ the score ended 3-3‚ with Butholezwe Ncube‚ Ncobeni and Bongi Ntuli cancelling Sundowns’ goals by Phakamani Mahlambi‚ Toni Silva and Sibusiso Vilakazi.
But last season was a disaster for Usuthu in their games against the Brazilians.
Ali Meza scored Sundowns' solitary goal in a 1-0 home victory in the first round‚ and in the return fixture a brace from eventual Player of the Season Themba Zwane and a lone strike from Vilakazi gave the Brazilians a comfortable 3-0 win in Durban.
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