Pitso Mosimane’s side may have been eliminated from the Caf Champions League last weekend, but they responded strongly with victory over Stellenbosch away on Wednesday as they continue to roar back into title contention.
Sundowns have enough quality to compete on multiple fronts, but they’ll face stern resistance from Highlands Park this weekend in the third quarter-final.
For Downs, the big prize this term, particularly in light of their failure in continental competition, is to secure the domestic treble, something not achieved since Orlando Pirates realised this feat in 2010 and then 2011.
The Brazilians have already lifted the Telkom Knockout Cup, have the quality to unseat Kaizer Chiefs in the league, and are favourites to clinch the Nedbank Cup.
However, they will have to banish their poor record in the competition, and must not underestimate their opponents – starting with Highlands Park on Saturday.
Three Nedbank Cup victories during the PSL era, and four overall from nine cup finals, is a poor record for a team of Downs’ calibre, but they won’t have too many better opportunities to rectify this.
To clinch the crown, however, they must demonstrate the same dominance and respect they showed when they last won the Nedbank Cup in 2015.
Certainly, Mosimane appears wary about the threat Highlands Park could cause for his side, with the Lions of the North having eliminated Kaizer Chiefs in the previous round.
“Win or lose, the game must not go to extra time. You know, you need energy at Makhulong in order to win, more than tactics,” he told journalists. “We’ll be in trouble in Makhulong, I can tell you now, but I hope that the game finishes in 90 minutes, whether we win or lose.
“It should not go to extra-time because it will affect our league game against Orlando Pirates on Tuesday.”
The outsiders may be quietly confident that they can capitalise on any fatigue on the part of Downs, who are also affected by a series of injuries.
“I don’t want to be complaining about injuries because we have enough players that can also play,” Jingles added, “but sometimes when you have certain players on the field, they can influence the results on the day.”
On Friday evening, Bidvest Wits eased into the semi-finals after securing a comfortable 4-0 win over Real Kings in the first quarter-final.
Kings were looking to reach the semis for the first time having eliminated fellow National First Division side Mbombela United in the Round of 16.
However, the match was true to form, with Wits comfortably seeing off lower-league opponents with Terrence Dzvukamanja scoring twice, and Bienvenu Evanga and Lorenzo Gordinho also netting as the Clever Boys progressed.
SuperSport Nedbank Cup weekend fixtures
Baroka vs Black Leopards: 14:50 SS4
Highlands Park vs Mamelodi Sundowns: 17:50 SS4
Sporting vs Bloemfontein Celtic: 14:50 SS4