Premier challenge: Sundowns captain Hlompho Kekana will be up against some familiar faces when his team meets Kaizer Chiefs in the season opener on Saturday. Picture: SAMUEL SHIVAMBU/ BACKPAGEPIX
Premier challenge: Sundowns captain Hlompho Kekana will be up against some familiar faces when his team meets Kaizer Chiefs in the season opener on Saturday. Picture: SAMUEL SHIVAMBU/ BACKPAGEPIX

Mamelodi Sundowns captain Hlompho Kekana said he might have to remind himself to be mean on Saturday against Kaizer Chiefs‚ who some cheeky football fans have begun to label "Sundowns Lite".

Chiefs’ signing of forward Khama Billiat brings to three the stars Amakhosi have poached from Sundowns in the past two-and-a-half years‚ following in the footsteps from Chloorkop to Naturena already trod by right-back Ramahlwe Mphahlele and striker Leonardo Castro.

Chiefs have even had former Downs left-back Mzikayise Mashaba training with them for the past week‚ running the rule over the defender.

Kekana chuckled at social media references to Sundowns Lite‚ who the Brazilians meet in a big matchup to kick off the 2018-19 premiership season at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.

"We’ve lost so many important players to Chiefs that it always pains me‚ because at times I even forget that they’re no longer my teammates‚" the Downs captain said.

"I still hug them‚ I still talk to them. But on the day I need to be professional and stick to the basics.

"So I need to really take this soft spot that I have for them‚ and try to be mean on the day."

Star-studded Sundowns start 2018-19 one of the favourites again‚ having finished in the top two in six seasons under Pitso Mosimane.

Chiefs are more troubled‚ with an air of uncertainty hanging over Naturena.

After three trophy-less seasons under Steve Komphela‚ Amakhosi have a new coach in Italian Giovanni Solinas, who has never won a major trophy or completed a season at a club and who arrived three-and-a-half weeks into the Soweto giants’ preseason.

If a massacre is being predicted at Loftus‚ though‚ Kekana is more circumspect‚ aware that recent form has shown that whenever Chiefs appear to be lambs to Sundowns’ slaughter‚ they often rise to a credible performance. "We are always scared to play against Chiefs. As you know‚ playing Chiefs is not an easy task for us‚" the Downs captain said.

"But we’ll try and do well for the people watching. Because for us it’s a business that we really need to run on the day.

"We will try to win the match even though it’s not going to be easy," he said.

Chiefs ended in third place in 2017-18, while Sundowns were the champions.

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