JOHANNESBURG – Having spent more time at Mamelodi Sundowns’ medical room than the field of play, Rivaldo Coetzee, who is back to full fitness, is hoping to make an invaluable contribution to the team next season.
Coetzee joined the Brazilians two seasons ago from Ajax Cape Town, but that move came after a move to Scottish giants Glascow Celtic fell through after he failed a medical test.
The British medical custodians discovered that the bulky centre-back had an underlying problem in his right foot.
Coetzee went on to spend a full maiden season with the Brazilians in a moon boot and crutches. He bounced back to action in the second half of last season, working his way to full fitness through David Notoane’s reserve team.
“So far it’s been good. Everyone is positive and had quite a long break this time around. The mood in the camp and everything is positive,” said Coetzee. “We are looking forward to the new season.
“I’ve always looked forward to the pre-season because that’s where you start from scratch and prove to the coach that you want to be part of the team and play a bigger role than you did last season.
“I wasn’t happy (with my contribution) last season, but in the next one I am looking forward to being more important to the team.”
Last season he grabbed the opportunity to don the famous green-and-yellow jersey of the Brazilians by the scruff of the neck.
In the star-studded Pitso Mosimane-coached team no one is guaranteed a started berth as they have to fight tooth and nail for their position. Noticing a gap in the engine room and natural midfielders not putting in the shift, Mosimane converted Coetzee from his usual centre-back role to a holding midfielder who partnered captain Hlompho Kekana.
“It was a tough transition,” Coetzee said.
“I hadn’t played there before, despite trying it a few times in training to see how I’d handle the pressure. Since I started my football, I’ve been a centre-back and not used to people pressing me from behind, but it’s something that I have to get used to.
“When a coach asks you to play in a position, you have to do it for the team and yourself. I didn’t know that I could play there but he (Mosimane) threw me in, and I’ve repaid him for the faith that he has in me.”
Coetzee aced that role and was justifiably selected for the Bafana Bafana’s provisional squad for the Africa Cup of Nations.
However, he didn’t report for camp, and coach Stuart Baxter said the player had asked for compassionate leave but was astonished to hear later that he had refused to avail himself. However, that’s old news as Coetzee has his focus on inspiring the Brazilians to a record 10th Premiership title and getting a second star over the jersey’s badge.
“We want to retain the Premiership title. We want to see how far we can go in cup competitions,” he said. “If it were up to us, we would want to win everything, but that’s improbable.”@Mihlalibaleka