The preliminary rounds for both the CAF Champions League and CAF Confederations Cup were completed this week, and South Africa still has a full contingent of four teams alive in continental football.
Mamelodi Sundowns and Orlando Pirates were both given byes in the Champions League and Confederations Cup respectively, so they will only begin competing in the first round.
Kaizer Chiefs beat PWD Bamenda from Cameroon 1-0 on aggregate to progress to the first round of the Champions League. They were held to a goalless draw on Saturday in the second leg at home, but had done the hard work the week before in Cameroon, winning 1-0.
Meanwhile Bloemfontein Celtic after an impressive 2-0 away win in the Democratic Republic of Congo in the first leg against AS Maniema Union, almost threw it away, as the DRC side reversed the result on the weekend in Bloemfontein. Fortunately Celtic were able to win a penalty shoot out and progress.
The first legs of first round matches for both competitions will be played in the week before Christmas, with the second legs set for a week into the new year.
So who will the South African teams be playing?
CAF Champions League
Kaizer Chiefs v Primeiro De Agosto (Angola)
Last season the Angolans reached the Group Stages of the competition, but found themselves in a group with finalists Zamalek, DRC giant TP Mazembe and Zesco. Though they didn’t advance, they only lost in Egypt and the DRC, though all their other games were draws. Chiefs must win at home. Simple. They must win, then go and defend that result in Angola if they want to progress.
Jwaneng Galaxy (Botswana) v Mamelodi Sundowns
The team from Botswana beat Zilimadjou from the Comoros in the preliminary round, and while they will be competitive, they face South Africa’s best chance at continental success. Sundowns should win this one, and seeing their current form, should get through this tie quite comfortably, especially with a good result away in the first leg.
CAF Confederations Cup
Bloemfontein Celtic v Rivers United (Nigeria)
From the DRC to Nigeria, it doesn’t get easier for Celtic in their continental debut. Rivers United progressed after beating Futuro Kings from Equatorial Guinea (the club that former Sundowns and Moroka Swallows midfielder Sibusiso Kumalo has just joined). Nigerian clubs in Nigeria are notoriously tough to play, so Celtic will need a good first leg result. Rivers turned around a 2-1 away defeat in the preliminary round, so if Celtic want to progress they need to pick their best, something they didn’t do in the preliminary rounds, with the MTN8 Final in the back of their minds
Sagrada Esperanca (Angola) v Orlando Pirates
The Angolans technically had a bye themselves, after Swaziland’s Mbabane Swallows withdrew from the competition. Pirates should start as favourites for this one, and getting a positive result in the away leg would really help that cause. Angolan clubs, while not always successful on the continent, are highly competitive, especially at home.