Themba Zwane in action for Sundowns. Photo: BackpagePix
The soft-spoken Themba Zwane dropped his shy persona and declared that he would like to finish the season as the best footballer in the country after helping Mamelodi Sundowns claim their eighth Absa Premiership title.

“Mshishi”, as Zwane is affectionately known, is the Brazilians’ heartbeat.

He makes the club tick with his clever runs, skills and calm demeanour that allows him to freeze time before making a defence splitting pass.

The lad from Tembisa has been directly involved in six of Sundowns’ 27 goals in the league with four goals and two assists.

He admits that those numbers are underwhelming, but what they don’t show is how almost every Sundowns move goes through him.

“The first priority is to win the league,” Zwane said on Friday at Sundowns’ base in Chloorkop.

“That would be great. On a personal level I would like to at least be nominated for the Footballer of the Year and Midfielder of the Season awards.

“The best case scenario would be us winning the league and me winning those awards, (but) to achieve that I need to be more consistent.

“I’d say that this has been my best season. But I still have a lot of things that I need to improve on. I need to score more goals because I am getting regular game time. I feel that I should have scored eight or nine goals at this stage.

“I have never won a major individual award. I think that could change this season. I am positive. It’s all up to me and the way I perform. But the team comes first.

“Our coach (Pitso Mosimane) is a very passionate man. He is constantly pushing us to improve and sharing ideas with us what other teams across the world are doing.

“You can see that in how we are playing; we are dominating games and we are doing well. There is another gear that we can kick into. Still, we aren’t at our peak just yet.”

Zwane’s former coach, 1996 Africa Cup of Nations winner Clive Barker, once compared the 28-year-old to Doctor Khumalo  the heartbeat of the Bafana Bafana team Barker conquered the continent with on home soil.

This season Zwane is showing why Barker made such a bold statement.

“To be honest with you, at some point that comparison put me under pressure,” Zwane said.

“But I didn’t let it get to me. I looked at it in a positive light. I used it to motivate me rather than let it strangle me knowing that I had to meet certain expectations and show people why he compared me to Doctor Khumalo, a great legend of the game. We look up to him.

“The comparison showed that I was on the right path. But when I wasn’t playing and I had to live up to that expectation, it was hard.

“Having players like Surprise (Moriri) and Teko (Modise) always motivating me helped. They were motivating me even when I was still at (Mpumalanga Black) Aces.

“They told me about seizing the moment and making the most of every opportunity I get. That’s what I did.”

Sundowns will look to extend their four-point lead at the summit this afternoon when they host Pirates at Loftus Versfeld.

The last time Pirates visited this venue they left with their tails between their legs after they were smashed 6-0 and their fans invaded the pitch which led to a brawl that left many injured.

Zwane started that onslaught by scoring the first goal.

“I’ll never forget that game. We were on fire. But I think it’ll be different this time.

“Coach Mourinho (Rhulani Mokwena, former Sundowns’ assistant coach who now serves in that capacity at Pirates) knows us.

“It’s going to be a highly tactical game. We need to be disciplined because they are good on the counter.

“But we are ready for them. We know their strengths and weaknesses.”

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