Three of the four South African clubs representing the country in the two CAF competitions – the Champions League and Confederation Cup – have one foot in the next round of their respective tournaments.
After comfortable wins this week, two former Champions League winners, Mamelodi Sundowns and Orlando Pirates, are expected to ease through to the next leg.
Kaizer Chiefs put themselves in good stead in the Confed Cup – a cup they won some years ago – while Free State Stars’ goalless draw might see them on a banana slip this coming week.
Chiefs’ midfielder Kabelo Mahlasela played a rare full 90 minutes for Amakhosi this week, a run he said had given him hope for more game time this season.
Most importantly, playing in the CAF Confederation Cup was a great taste of continental club football for the former Bloemfontein Celtic man, who scored in Chiefs’ 4-0 demolition of Zimamoto FC in their opening round on Wednesday.
“The experience is totally different because this will be the first time that I will be playing outside the country,” Mahlasela told City Press, adding that the goal was the cherry on top.
“I am glad I have been registered in the CAF competition. Playing in this tournament means there will be many games and more playing chances for all of us.”
Mahlasela, who spent the better part of last season injured, was one of the many changes to the Chiefs line-up after their defeat to Pirates in the Telkom Knockout semifinals in Durban last weekend.
Khama Billiat netted a hat-trick in the first leg of the Confed Cup at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth on Wednesday, virtually steering Amakhosi to the next round with the return leg to spare.
Although it will be a herculean task for Zanzibar Cup champions Zimamoto to overturn the deficit, Mahlasela admitted that it was still a dicey scenario for his team-mates to find themselves in, considering that Chiefs were playing away.
“It is a tricky situation because you can relax, but not be too relaxed at the same time. We must keep the momentum going – win, win and win more,” said the diminutive midfielder ahead of the return leg at the Indian Ocean island on Tuesday.
Mahlasela said the pain of losing to rivals Pirates last weekend was unbearable and the only way to restore the fans’ faith in the team was to return to winning ways – immediately.
“Chiefs is a big club and it was not easy after losing the derby. The only thing that the fans want is a win,” said the player from Sebokeng township in the Vaal.
“We take this tournament seriously and we want to go as far as possible. It was a good start for South African teams and we hope to put the country in a good position in CAF competitions.”
Chiefs are likely to face another island team, Elgeco Plus of Madagascar, in the second round as they are taking a 3-1 lead to their return leg against Deportivo Unidad of Equatorial Guinea.
Sundowns and Pirates are taking comfortable leads into the reverse legs of their Champions League assignments.
Sundowns will host Equatorial Guinea’s Leones Vegetarianos at Loftus Versfeld on Wednesday night after beating them 2-0 in Malabo.
If the South African champions consolidate their result, they will meet FC Nouadhibou of Mauritania or Libya’s Al-Ahly Benghazi, who are trailing 2-1 from the first leg.
Also on Wednesday, Bucs, who beat Light Stars of the Seychelles 5-1, will be away to the island for the return leg.
The Buccaneers will face the winner between Volcan de Moroni of the Comoros and Namibia’s Africans Stars, who played to a goalless draw in their opening meeting.
Confed Cup debutants Stars are in a more challenging place, taking a goalless draw into the return leg against Mukura Victory Sports in Rwanda on Wednesday.