An opportunity to play against Africa’s best

Coach of Maritzburg United of Simo Dladla. | BackpagePix

Coach of Maritzburg United of Simo Dladla. | BackpagePix

Published Mar 13, 2024


Maritzburg United head coach Simo Dladla has expressed his feelings ahead of meeting Mamelodi Sundowns in the Nedbank Cup later this week, as being “terrible”.

The Team of Choice were the unfortunate, lower-tier side drawn against the mighty Brazilians in the round of 16 of the competition and will travel to Tshwane The two teams will battle at the Loftus Versfeld Stadium on Sunday in a 6pm kick-off.

Maritzburg watched along with the entire country as Sundowns ran through Motsepe Foundation Championship side La Masia in the last round, smashing in an emphatic six-goals on the night.

Now plying their trade in the second tier of South African football, Maritzburg will line up against arguably the best team on the continent, with many expecting yet another rampant display by Sundowns. Dladla spoke to the media in Durban ahead of the trip at the weekend and shared his views and feelings as he continues to prepare for Sundowns.

“I must say it's a terrible draw for us, looking at where we are and where Sundowns are, looking at everything that they have, the quality that is there,” he said.

“But I believe that we have talent and this year we have turned the corner in terms of our performances. I’ve already benefited from the draw because everyone wants to play this type of game.

“I’ve coached players at Sundowns, who were once nobodies. They came from where I was to Sundowns, so for me it’s all about the stage - we're given the platform to be able to dance with them, so I think that is motivation on its own.”

Dladla has been based in KwaZulu-Natal for a huge chunk of his managerial career, except for a stint at Moroka Swallows and Venda Football Academy between 2020 and 2022. He guided Real Kings - now Royal AM - into the second tier from the ABC Motsepe League in the past as well.

Head coach of Mamelodi Sundowns Rhulani Mokwena. | BackpagePix

When quizzed about the work of his counterpart Rulani Mokwena, Dladla had nothing but respect for the young manager and expressed that he should be given more credit for his success.

“I think coach Rulani needs to be applauded because he was handed an opportunity and he was able to use it,” he said.

“Being at a top club that has everything, is an opportunity we all want to be able to showcase our talents. We're learning from him as well because it's not easy because there’s always pressure.

“In football, it’s not only about coaching but managing players as well especially big ones like those at Sundowns. You have to be special to manage that.”