Mamelodi Sundowns Ladies have won 11 of the 13 games they have played in the three-year old CAF Women’s Champions League.
The only blemish on their record comes from one team – AS FAR Rabat from Morocco.
The two giants – making their third appearance in the competition – meet in the semi-final in Cote d’Ivoire in what is dubbed the ‘Final before the Final’ – as it will pit the 2021 winners against the 2022 champions in the CAF Women’s Champions League.
“We are not in this tournament to beat AS FAR, but to win the tournament – for us to win the tournament we will have to go through AS FAR and beat them. We are meeting them now and it is what we have all been waiting for,” Sundowns Head Coach Jerry Tshabalala told the media in Korhogo ahead of the match-up.
Two years ago in the inaugural competition, the North African’s held the South Africans to a goalless draw in their first ever meeting – but Sundowns Ladies went on to be crowned champions in Egypt.
The 2021 champions sailed through the tournament last year only to fall and be dethroned by the same AS FAR, 4-0 in the final.
The loss came on 19 November 2022 – almost a year to the day they will meet for the third time.
“Statistically AS FAR are a little bit ahead of us in terms of the number of games that we’ve played – we haven’t beaten them; they’ve got one ahead of us and we’ve played a draw, but all the games are different, and the places are also different. We are currently in Cote d’Ivoire, we were in Morocco and in Egypt in previous games,” said Tshabalala.
“The stats don’t say much because it’s a totally different ball game, so we’ll see who’s going to come out victorious. To be champions you must play against all the top teams. If you want to be a champion without meeting AS FAR then you are not a worthy champion, but I can tell you now, they are also worried about meeting Sundowns Ladies.”
This year, the South Africans had a perfect run-in to the semi-finals with three wins out of three: 2-0 vs JKT Queens; 1-0 vs SC Casablanca and 3-0 vs Athlético de Abidjan, while AS FAR faltered in the opening match in a 2-1 loss to Ampem Darkoa before getting their campaign back on track with 1-0 and 2-0 victories over Huracanes and AS Mande respectively to reach the last four.
“This game will be just like any other games we will play, but the only difference is the tactical approach from the two sides. We just have to be spot on in terms of our tactics and how we apply ourselves. I believe if we apply ourselves quite well, we will come out victorious,” said the Sundowns Ladies mentor.
The clash will take place on Wednesday, 15 November 2023 at Stade Amadou Gon Coulibaly in Korhogo.
Kickoff is at 19h00 South African time.
Here is what they said:
Zanele Nhlapho: Sundowns Ladies captain:
“We found ourselves in a challenging group because we had limited information about the teams we faced. Nevertheless, we are pleased that we managed to succeed. Ending the group stage with nine points and no goals conceded demonstrates our dedication and hard work. When you score goals and don’t concede, winning games becomes easier. We can’t describe this game as revenge, but our collective goal is to win the tournament. Ultimately, it goes beyond the opponent we face and we are prepared to compete against any team, regardless of their identity. We have learned valuable lessons from last year’s defeat and the new players in our squad have contributed to our winning philosophy. The team spirit is high and every player within the team is determined to secure victory. We are eagerly anticipating the match against FAR.”
Lerato Kgasago – Sundowns Ladies midfielder:
The players are well prepared, we knew that this day would come and it’s going to be a different ball game. Last year we didn’t have a good result against them, but this game is a totally different. If I get a chance to play, I’ll play to benefit the team not for myself.”
Regina Mogolola: Sundowns Ladies Defender
“Our group stage fixtures were far from easy. Each of the three teams in our group came prepared with their Plan A and played with great determination to secure positive results. For example, our match against JKT Queens was particularly tough due to their physicality. Other teams employed various strategies, requiring us to constantly adapt our game to achieve results. Overall, the group stage provided valuable learning experiences, exposing us to a variety of tactics employed by our opponents. We are not seeking revenge against them. Our primary focus is to stay grounded and play our football. Our purpose here is clear – to win the tournament. To achieve that, we must be prepared to face and triumph over every opponent we encounter. I recall Coach Jerry Tshabalala’s words in the locker room in Pretoria when we faced JVW at Lucas Moripe Stadium. He urged us to maintain humility and avoid overconfidence. Those team talks taught us valuable lessons and this time around, we will stay humble and strive for results that will take us to the next match, which is the final.”
Past encounters between Sundowns Ladies and AS FAR
12th November 2021
Al Salam Stadium Cairo
Mamelodi Sundowns Ladies 0 – 0 AS FAR
13th November 2022
Prince Moulay Abdellah Stadium, Rabat
AS FAR 4 – 0 Sundowns Ladies
Sundowns Ladies vs AS FAR Head to Head:
In the second semi-final, the battle of the debutants will ensue between Ampem Darkoa of Ghana and Morocco’s SC Casablanca, which indicates that there will be a new team in the final – and a possibility of a brand new champion.
The match will be played at Stade Laurent Pokou in San Pedro, starting at 22h00 SA time.
By Matlhomola Morake