Manqoba Mngqithi backs Lebohang Maboe to succeed in new role at Downs
JOHANNESBURG - Mamelodi Sundowns coach Manqoba Mngqithi has backed midfielder Lebohang Maboe to succeed in his new role, saying he brings an immense contribution to the team, while he is on course to be a Bafana Bafana regular in the near future.
After an incredible debut season at Sundowns three years ago, where he contributed with nine goals and eight assists, Maboe failed to build on from that feat last term when he only made seven contributions in all competitions.
From the seven goals though came a hat-trick that he scored on the final day of the season to help Sundowns win the Premiership title. But since then, a lot has happened, especially with coach Pitso Mosimane vacating his post at the club.
Currently co-coaches Mngqithi and Rhulani Mokwena have withdrawn the former Maritzburg United midfielder from an advance role, using him in a deeper central role. Maboe appears to have adjusted seamlessly to the new position, registering two assists in 10 matches so far.
His most recent outing for the Brazilians was on Tuesday at Loftus as his team ran out 3-1 victors against Botswana outfit Jwaneng Galaxy in the Caf Champions League preliminary qualifiers.
“When we bought Lebo from Maritzburg, we bought him for the position that he is playing now. But circumstances forced us to play him as a No 9 because at certain times we didn't have 9s that could set themselves in,” Mngqithi said.
“Myself, in particular, and coach Rhulani have always believed that the best of Lebo will only come when he plays as a No 8. I strongly believe that if he plays as an 8, he stands a realistic chance to go to the national team.”
One of the requirements that comes with playing for the 10-time Premiership champions means being flexible and able to play in a number of positions when required. Rivaldo Coetzee who was converted from a centre back to a central midfielder has aced his new role to the T so far.
“It is the same way I believe that Rivaldo Coetzee, sooner than later, will be playing for the national team as a No 6,” Mngqithi said. “We believe
that they've got the attributes of the best central midfielders that you can think of.
“Not many people know the influence of Rivaldo in our team, but we know. Lebohang, like you said, runs and works very hard for the team. The boy is good. He works very hard and is very intelligent. We believe that he's got something big to offer.”
With their qualification for yet another Champions League group stage sealed, Sundowns will turn their focus to the domestic campaign this weekend. They will be away to Limpopo-based Baroka FC at the new Peter Mokaba Stadium on Saturday.
Sundowns are at the summit of the league standings with 21 points, thanks to six wins and three draws in their nine matches. Mngqithi, though, is wary of Baroka who have won three matches, drawn three and lost three.
“I must say that Bakgakga have really started well this season. They are a very hard-running team. And for whatever reason, they are one team that always gives us trouble, mostly here at home. They have some interesting players. We understand what we are facing,” he said.