DURBAN – The good news for Mamelodi Sundowns fans still lamenting the club’s loss of star players Khama Billiat and Percy Tau is that coach Pitso Mosimane believes the club has a player who will eventually be able to plug that gap.
“He reminds me of Tau and Khama when they first came here,” Mosimane said of Phakamani Mahlambi, who scored on his debut for the Brazilians in Sunday’s thrilling 3-3 draw with AmaZulu.
“If he spends a year or two with me, I think we will turn him into a better product for Bafana Bafana,” Mosimane said.
Mahlambi, previously with Bidvest Wits, joined Sundowns this term after an unsuccessful spell with continental kings, Al Ahly of Egypt.
He got his first start in the Absa Premiership clash at Umlazi’s King Zwelithini Stadium and impressed with a lively showing which he topped with a goal.
Mosimane was quick to lavish praise on his new man, but was also careful not to have the youngster start thinking he is all that matters.
“He is okay. He did well in his first game. That’s why we have him here. A good player, very young and raw. He needs a lot of work,” said the Sundowns coach, who is renowned for his ability to groom young players into superstars.
Both Billiat and Tau grew immensely as players under Mosimane’s tutelage - to the extent they ended up winning the PSL’s Footballer of the Season awards.
Mahlambi no doubt would love to emulate those two.
Added to the fact he has a patient coach to guide him, Mahlambi is also fortunate to have some quality players around him.
On his debut on Sunday, he was part of an attacking trio which also included Tony Silva and Ali Menza - a combination that could well end up replacing Sundowns’ good old CBD, perhaps?
“The best combination is going to take a bit longer. In the last game (against Cape Town City) we scored one goal with Tony Silva and Ali Menza combining nicely.
“Today Phaka (Mahlambi) came in to the picture. I moved Phaka to play with Ali Menza. Phaka scored and Silva also scored,” Mosimane explained.
“To find a new combination is not easy. We are struggling with combinations. When you had Khama and Percy, and then you have the new ones, it is not easy.
“Four goals in two matches looks good on the statistics but the flow is not what I want it to be. It will get there and it will flow very well.”
Mosimane has been in this situation before, when he lost Keagan Dolly who formed the “CBD” with Leonardo Castro and Billiat.
“I worked on Percy and Khama for four years. When it clicked it produced the top goalscorer and when it clicks you’ve got the titles that you win.
“I just hope that Sundowns supporters will be patient with the team because there’s a lot of changes. There’s Lebo (Maboe) who is also new in the team. It is much better when I have Gaston Sirino, Themba Zwane, Sibusiso Vilakazi, Tiyani Mabunda and Hlompo Kekana.
“We have a new team, normally new teams settle after two years. Players make the combination. You don’t make the combination but it is the type of players you have who determine that.”
How Mahlambi would love to be a part of a combination that leads Sundowns to glory again.