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Five players who stood out for Mamelodi Sundowns this season

FILE - Andile Jali has had arguably his best season for Mamelodi Sundowns. Photo: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix

FILE - Andile Jali has had arguably his best season for Mamelodi Sundowns. Photo: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix

Published May 24, 2022


Johannesburg — Mamelodi Sundowns’ goalkeeper Denis Onyango became the most successful player in the Premier Soccer League history after winning a record ninth championship this season.

But he didn’t single-handedly inspire the Brazilians to a fifth successive title, and that’s why, below, IOL Sport football writer Mihlali Baleka looks at five players that immensely contributed to the team’s success.

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Denis Onyango — nine titles.

The former Ugandan national team captain was not nominated for the Goalkeeper of the Season award for the first time in three seasons despite playing a huge role in his team’s quest for a domestic treble.

Having already won the MTN8 earlier this season before securing the league title, the Brazilians will face Marumo Gallants in the Nedbank Cup final at Royal Bafokeng Sports Palace on Saturday night.

The 37-year-old shot-stopper has aged like fine wine. His reflexes are still as sharp as ever while he can easily read one-on-one duels from open play. Injuries, have hampered him somewhat, this season.

Andile Jali — six titles

Jali had his best season in the yellow and green jersey of Sundowns since returning to the PSL following a stint out in Belgium after he left Orlando Pirates.

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He embraced the captaincy role, and was impressive for the club on-an-off-the-pitch. His aggression with and without the ball has made the Brazilians tick going forward and in defence.

Many pundits have been amazed by Jali’s growth as a footballer and a person. He has taken his omission from the national team set-up on the chin, saying he won’t make comments about coach Hugo Broos' decisions.

Jali’s form hasn’t been unnoticed, and the Matatiele-born star finds himself nominated for five awards, including the coveted Footballer of the Season award.

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Themba Zwane — six titles

Zwane has, arguably, been the most consistent player in the top-flight in the last five seasons. And that’s why he finds himself yet again nominated for the Midfielder of the Season award.

Zwane has a touch of gold in his feet. But he’s not all about leaving defenders eating dust, he can score goals and assists as well. And that’s what makes him stand out as a player.

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His calm demeanour and humility has made it quite easy for him to be coached, while he’s a role model to many youngsters within the club and others as well.

Peter Shalulile — two titles

Shalulile was two goals shy of equalling Collins Mbesuma’s record of 25 league goals in a season. But he’ll be proud of his exploits after surpassing the 20-goal mark which hadn’t been broken since 2011.

Shalulile might be a lethal goal poacher, but his runs and hold up play up front allows his teammates to get in on the act and chip in with goals of their own as well.

Hadn’t he pressed to force Royal AM’s goalkeeper Patrick Nyame to cause a blunder that resulted in Pavol Safranko scoring the winner in the 2-1 Nedbank Cup semi-final victory, Sundowns might not be on course to win a treble.

The Namibian striker is also on course to defend his Footballer of the Season award after being nominated alongside Jali and Victor Letsoalo. He is also in the running for two other awards: the MTN8 Last Man Standing and Player’s Player of the year award.

Grant Kekana — one title

Kekana has fit in Sundowns’ defence like a glove since making the switch from cross-town rivals SuperSport United at the end of last season.

He can read the game easily, knowing when to tackle and press. His aerial prowess has worked for the team both in defence and attacked. He scored with a header against Kaizer Chiefs this season.

He’s a versatile player as well, given that he plays a wingback at times albeit being a natural centre-back. He’s in the running for the Defender of the Season ward.


IOL Sport