Mamelodi Sundowns are twenty-one points clear at the summit of the Dstv Premiership. They have won seventeen of their twenty matches, are currently on a run of fourteen games unbeaten, and are well on their way to a sixth successive league title.
The Brazilians have won everything on the domestic front, and their dominance is beyond any reasonable doubt.
But it is in the CAF Champions League where Mamelodi Sundowns must prove themselves. Their complete dominance at home though, may well be their downfall in Africa, as in the PSL, Downs are clearly not tested enough by the level of the opposition.
The gap between Sundowns and the rest of the teams in the league is too big, as Gavin Hunt highlighted a few weeks ago, after the Brazilians beat his Supersport United side.
“Well, Sundowns shouldn’t be judged on the PSL, to be fair, let’s be honest,” Hunt told the media after the game.
“They should be judged in the Champions League. They should be in the semifinal and final every year and that’s where you should judge them because the gap between Sundowns and the rest is huge. Sundowns are much bigger and better than everybody in the PSL.”
If we take a look at the Egyptian Premier League, where Al Ahly, one of Downs’ most fierce competitors plays, the league is much more competitive.
Although Al Ahly is topping the log, they are just six points ahead of second-placed Pyramids FC, and Future FC who are third on the table.
This shows that Al Ahly, as much as they are the dominant team in Egypt, the competition is much tougher, which helps in preparing them for the CAF Champions league.
It is the same in the Botola Pro League of Morocco, where the likes of Wydad SC, Raja, FUS Rabat, and FAR Rabat play their domestic football.
The league is challenging, with log leaders, FAR Rabat only two points ahead of second-placed Wydad SC, and only four points ahead of FUS Rabat in third place.
While Mamelodi Sundowns cruise to victory week in and week out, playing their games at medium intensity, and doing just enough to get the next three points, their the biggest challengers for the CAF Champions league title are involved in high-intensity encounters almost every weekend.
The above factors may put Mamelodi Sundowns at a huge disadvantage, and they might struggle with the demands of the continental showpiece.
But they have a talented, expensively assembled squad; does that not put them in a good position?
Downs have a great squad brimming with talent, and they have a top tactician in Rulani Mokwena, and they have the ambition to conquer Africa.
But the fact is, no matter how talented a squad you have at your disposal, the CAF Champions league demands more from its potential winners, especially when it comes to the psychological factors of the game.
The question is, do Sundowns have what it takes to withstand the huge mental demands of the tournament?
Hlompho Kekana, who won Captained Mamelodi Sundowns to continental victory in 2016, under Pitso Mosimane, is the best person to advise the Brazilians.
“The key here is to have mental strength,” Hlompho told Farpost in an interview last year.
“Somewhere, somehow, the talent won’t win you a match, mental strength will do.”
As the group stage encounters for the CAF Champions League loom on the horizon, Mamelodi Sundowns players will do well to keep Bra Hlompho’s words in mind.