Three Downs players made their season debut on Saturday while others with little game time were also preferred
Mamelodi Sundowns co-coach Rhulani Mokwena says they were trying “new things” by handing opportunities to some players to compete for places in the squad, when they rested key players and fielded an unfamiliar side in the 1-1 draw away at Golden Arrows.
It was a game where forward Peter Shalulile struggled in the absence of his attacking partners Themba Zwane and Kermit Erasmus, as other regulars also did not make the matchday squad.
The scorer of Sundowns’ goal, Mothobi Mvala, made his debut for Sundowns, while Sibusiso Vilakazi returned from injury to play for the first time this season.
Ivorian defender Bangaly Soumahoro made a rare appearance for his second game in three seasons when he came on to feature in the last seven minutes.
Grant Margeman and Promise Mkhuma also surprisingly started the match as Downs were far from their best and registered a result that could see second-placed Swallows FC equal them on points if the Soweto side beat Black Leopards on Sunday.
“Mvala did his best. He has got a lot to offer the team. Scoring a goal from a set-piece on his debut should be encouraging for him,” Mokwena told the Sundowns media team.
“Grant did his best. Of course maybe not in the best position or position we would like to see him play going forward into the season but he did his best and this is what we want. We want a lot of effort, the right mentality and he has the right quality. With better conditions and a little more game time, we will see the best of Grant Margeman. He has a lot of potential.
“We have a lot of depth in the team. We are blessed to have it. The first thing we spoke about at the beginning of the season was that we don’t want too many players.
“And because you don’t want too many players you then get into a situation where everybody has to be part of the team and feel like they are part of the team making a contribution. You can see everybody is getting a chance.
“It’s not just depth in terms of quantity but there are a lot of possibilities to try new things and it gives different players opportunities to make sure that they give their best to play and compete for their chance in the team.”
The resting of key players could have been influenced by Sundowns’ next fixture as they now travel to Botswana for Tuesday’s Caf Champions League first round, first-leg clash against Jwaneng Galaxy.
Saturday’s decision to rotate players was, however, not an unusual move by Sundowns who have done that in previous seasons to strike a balance between domestic and continental schedules.
“The PSL and the Champions League are completely different projects. On one hand we have the feelings of being unbeaten and sitting as log leaders [but] of course no title has been won at this moment,” added Mokwena.
“That’s why we have to treat it as an isolated situation and focus on the next two games as isolated in the sense that we need to make sure that we get a very good result in Botswana and use the experience we have as a team to be able to qualify for the group stage.
“Of course Galaxy are a good team. We will get footage from our analysts and advance team that went to Botswana.
“We are now done with Golden Arrows and we try to make sure that we are well-prepared for the game. You can see with the [Botswana] national team that there is a resurgence in football. So we have to make sure that we are well-prepared.”