Mamelodi Sundowns travel to KwaZulu-Natal to play their final DStv Premiership encounter against Royal AM on Saturday afternoon. With one game left to play of their 2021/22 campaign, Masandawana have achieved their first target of successfully defending their Championship title in the Premier Soccer League. Downs’ co-coach Manqoba Mngqithi is keen to get positive results against their opponents that they have already defeated on two occasions this season.
“The game against Royal AM is definitely going to be very tough. They’ve got a lot of very exciting players, and the fact that we beat them in the Nedbank Cup makes them even more motivated for this match, and besides that they’ve changed the squad a lot from the team that they were using before. They even changed the approach to a certain extent, they are no longer building from the back a lot ever since they played that match against us.”
“They’ve conceded a goal from a high press, so now they’ve been playing a lot of long balls and they’ve been very direct in their play with two strikers and one 10 which is [Ndumiso] Mabena. When we played them they were playing [Mxolisi] Macuphu uptop alone with two number 10’s which could be a [Teboho] Potsane, Mabena or [Victor] Letsoalo behind, but now they are putting two up top so they’ve really gone direct, but they have not actually had the results that they wanted. We are playing against a very sophisticated team that we know has got a lot to offer, and we have to go there with a very good mind because we know our supporters will be there so it’s very important that we get good results before the final and we give a very good performance on the day.”
The Brazilians consist of exceptionally talented footballers with the majority of the players forming part of their respective national teams in Africa and abroad. The goalkeeping department is made up of four international goalkeepers, amongst them is Zambian shot stopper Kennedy Mweene who was instrumental in Bafana Ba Style’s campaign in spite of his unusual age in the football industry.
“Kennedy Mweene has done very well. We are very excited with how he has performed in this season and I am not one person who looks at the age when it comes to players. I’ve seen that South Africa has made a lot of mistakes in that space of always jumping in to look at how old the person is before looking at what they are doing at that point in time. For goalkeepers they can go all the way and based on his performances there’s a very big chance that he will still stay with us, he’s very important to the team in many ways.” Declared Coach Manqoba regarding the future of Mweene at Chloorkop.
Coach Manqoba also reflected on Erwin Saavedra, the Bolivian attacker who succumbed to an injury early in his arrival at his new home in Tshwane. According to Coach Manqoba, the 26-year-old is making progress with his fitness: “He’s definitely going to play many more matches for us, he was unfortunate with the injury that he got when we played Al Hilal. We all took it for granted, we thought he would recover really quickly but unfortunately it has taken a bit of time. He’s back in full training now but we are just worried because he has lost a lot of time in terms of training and we don’t want to have him going back.”
“He’s okay now he’s started training with the team but we are just not too sure at this stage whether it’s going to be a good idea for us to try and rope him in and risk the potential of him going back when he’s got the chance to prepare him properly because he came to us without an injury. But we are optimistic he’s going to play a lot of matches.”
The Brazilians coach also reflected on Sibusiso Vilakazi’s unsettling game time in this year’s campaign. The former PSL player of the year has endured a difficult 2021/22 campaign that saw him struggling to get regular game time with the forward only making less than five starts in all competitions.
“It’s true that Vila has not played a lot of matches this season which should be a big concern for me as a coach, and also a big concern for him as a player. But the truth of the matter is that we know his quality, we know what he can give us and unfortunately from time to time when he gets injured he finds it difficult to come back into the team. it’s not in our control, it’s very difficult for everyone and it’s even worse if the player himself feels he deserves to play more than what he’s playing, which he has not raised that concern because he understands his situation and we have not made any decisions in that regard.”
Mamelodi Sundowns lock horns with Royal AM in the DStv Premiership on Saturday at the Chatsworth Stadium. Kick-off is at 15H00, live on SuperSport.