Pretoria - Mamelodi Sundowns coach Pitso Mosimane heaped praise on Sphelele Mkhulise even though he admitted that he might have held the midfielder back in his progress due to the his conservative nature.
Mkhulise has been a revelation for the Brazilians since he broke onto the scene in the Shell Helix Ultra Cup last season.
But he saw little game time, playing only 18 minutes of PSL football. Due to injuries to key players, the 23-year-old has played more matches this season.
He was even on the scoresheet in the 3-0 win over Angola’s Petro de Luanda in the Caf Champions League over the weekend.
That match was a light test compared to the baptism of fire that Sundowns will face in Morocco on Saturday against Wydad Casablanca in their second Group C match.
Saturday’s match will be a stern test for Mkhulise who reminds Mosimane of Percy Tau.
“He reminds me of how Percy (Tau) came up, nice and easy,” Mosimane said.
“You know I am also a conservative coach. I have kept him a little bit longer.
“Even with (Bongani) Zungu (when he wanted to go abroad) I said he must stay one more year.
“I said the same with Keagan (Dolly) and with Percy, I said one more year. Why? Because I am conservative. I just want more surety.
“With Pitso (Mkhulise), maybe I delayed him a little bit.
“But you’ve also got to understand that last year he was competing with Lebo Maboe who was the top scorer, Gaston Sirino and Mshishi (Themba Zwane) were there.
“There wasn’t an easy space. (Anthony) Laffor was also part of the programme. It’s the time now! He is a good player. He can lose the ball a little bit, but he is happy.
“You can see that he is young and fearless, he enjoys himself. We will let that go (losing of the ball) a little bit because if you tell him that he is losing the ball, then you put him in a cage again.
I want to release him, to do what he wants and then I can show the mistakes after.
He links up well with Gaston, the same as Themba.
“It would be good to have all those three on the pitch because it is creativity more than effort.”
The clash with Wydad will be the start of what will be a hectic month for Sundowns who will be competing in three competitions - the Champions League, PSL and Telkom Knockout final where they will face Maritzburg United next Saturday at Moses Mabhida Stadium.
“We have big games coming,” Mosimane said.
“This is the serious stuff. We have Casablanca, Algeria (to face USM Alger on 27 December), the final and Wits in the league.
“We need a number of our injured players back for them. It’s tough in Morocco, you need the big boys and the soldiers for that.
“Those games are for Mosa (Lebusa) and (Tiyani) Shuga Mabunda in midfield. They aren’t games to be passing and passing in midfield.
It’s a totally different personnel. I know my personnel for that match.”