Sundowns Women juggle confidence and caution ahead of Champions League defence

The second edition of the Caf Women’s Champions League kicks off this Sunday in Morocco. Defending champions Mamelodi Sundowns are well aware of the target on their back, but remain ready to fend off all challengers.
Having just wrapped up their second Hollywoodbets Super League title on the trot, Tshwane-based football side Mamelodi Sundowns Ladies are now fully focused on defending their Caf Women’s Champions League crown.
The South African champions made history in 2021 when the competition was launched in Egypt, becoming the first club to lift the crown.
In the inaugural season of the African women’s club football showpiece, Banyana Ba Style registered a 2-0 final victory over Ghana’s Hasaacas Ladies to win the title. The South Africans achieved this feat without conceding a single goal.
In this second edition, the competition they will face promises to be more challenging. They have already been handed a taste of some of the difficulties that await.
It wasn’t all smooth sailing as the team competed in the regional qualifier. They were defeated by Zambia’s Green Buffaloes in the final of the Southern Africa mini tournament.
In Morocco, where the second edition of the Champions League is taking place, they can expect more of the same — with teams on the continent constantly improving.
Psychological boost
Sundowns will be relieved to head into the tournament knowing that the domestic league title has already been secured, with three games to spare. This means the team can focus all its energy on trying to defend its continental crown.
“Psychologically, [wrapping up the league early] helps us because we can focus on the big one. Which is the Champions League. We don’t have to worry about trying to play catch-up games [when we return from Morocco]. Last year, it was the same thing. It gave us the chance to focus on winning the Champions League,” said Sundowns coach Jerry Tshabalala.
His sentiments on the convenience and mental advantage of going into the Champions League as national champions were echoed by club captain Zanele Nhlapho.
“We are very excited that we have wrapped up the league as we prepare to compete in the Champions League. Although our league statistics are very good, it was quite difficult to achieve them this time around,” said Nhlapho.
“Several teams faced us with low defensive blocks in a bid to negate our attacking prowess. Thus, teams were more difficult to beat. It shows that the league is improving as teams are ...