JOHANNESBURG: New Zealander Jeremy Brockie dashed from Peru to the Democratic Republic of Congo to play for SuperSport United of South Africa in the CAF Confederation Cup final this Sunday.
The 30-year-old striker was used as a substitute by his country when they were beaten 2-0 in Lima Wednesday to lose a two-legged World Cup inter-continental play-off.
Within hours, Brockie was flying the width of South America to Brazilian city Sao Paulo, where he boarded a flight to South African commercial capital Johannesburg.
Arriving weary but cheerful, Brockie sipped several cups of coffee Friday before flying with his team-mates to the southern Congolese city of Lubumbashi.
SuperSport play Confederation Cup title-holders TP Mazembe there on an artificial pitch in a first leg that will be watched by a sell-out 18,500 crowd.
Brockie is the leading scorer in the African equivalent of the UEFA Europa League this season with 10 goals, including a hat-trick against Liberian side Barrack Young Controllers.
His goals put him four ahead of his nearest rivals, including Ben Malango of Mazembe, making him favourite to top the final scorers’ chart.
“When I joined SuperSport, one of my goals was to play in a CAF club competition,” said the footballer born in the rugby stronghold of Christchurch.
“I have wonderful memories from visiting countries in the east, west and north of Africa this year.
“SuperSport have performed brilliantly to reach the final and now we face a very good team in Mazembe.”
After playing for clubs in New Zealand, Australia and Canada, Brockie moved to South Africa in 2015 and rival coaches have labelled him “the sniper” because of his prolific scoring rate.
It has been a nightmare build-up for SuperSport as they prepare for their first CAF final while Mazembe have played in 14 across four competitions, winning 10.
Goalkeeper Ronwen Williams, defender Clayton Daniels, midfielder and captain Dean Furman and striker Bradley Grobler were with South Africa in Senegal for a World Cup qualifier.
It meant coach Eric Tinkler had to prepare without half the likely first-leg starting side for the biggest match since SuperSport was formed 23 years.
The Pretoria club will also lack two stalwarts, centre-back Morgan Gould and midfielder Reneilwe Letsholonyane, in DR Congo due to suspensions.
“We would obviously have preferred better preparations, but with the World Cup qualifiers that was not possible,” said Tinkler, a coach desperate to avoid a third CAF final failure.
He was Orlando Pirates’ assistant coach when they finished 2013 Champions League runners-up and coach of the same club when they lost the Confederation Cup final two years ago.
SuperSport are unbeaten in 13 matches since their lone defeat in Africa this year — away to Al Ahly Shendy of Sudan in the first leg of a last-32 qualifier.
Mazembe have an even more impressive record, reaching the final by winning seven matches and drawing five under Congolese coach Pamphile Mihayo.
Local Malango is the emerging star of a multi-national team, including Ghanaians, Ivorians, Malians and Zambians.
Mihayo is spoilt for choice with first-choice DR Congo goalkeeper Ley Matampi usually sitting on the bench while Ivorian Sylvain Gbohouo plays.
The teams drew twice in the group stage with SuperSport coming from two goals behind to force an exciting 2-2 draw in Lubumbashi, followed by a drab 0-0 stalemate in Pretoria.-AFP