Johannesburg – Mamelodi Sundowns rewrote the history books this week, becoming the first local team to keep 11 successive clean sheets in a league season. And that's why they’ll be eager to maintain their impressive form when they face Marumo Gallants.
It was back in 2003 when the defunct Bidvest Wits kept 10 clean sheets in as many league matches in a row. But fast track to 18 years later, the Brazilians equalled that record during a hard-fourth 1-0 victory over Golden Arrows in Clermont.
And interestingly, that was their last victory in domestic football before playing in their first ever MTN8 final since 2016. Out at the Moses Mabhida Stadium, they bagged the elusive trophy – after penalty shootouts heroics from Denis Onyango.
However, the Brazilians proved that they are “no ordinary team” as they didn’t suffer from any hangover vibes on Wednesday, brushing aside Maritzburg United at home, thanks to a delightful solo strike from the in-form striker Peter Shalulile.
Co-coach Rhulani Mokwena didn’t want the technical team to take credit for their team’s record-breaking run – as they are unbeaten, haven't conceded and are top of the standings. He says the players are the ones putting in the hard yards.
“The credit should go to the players. They are the ones that train very hard. They are the ones that sit for hours and analyse the oppositions. Everything that you see is due to the hard work and profile of these great players,” he said.
“I don’t think as a country and footballing nation we give these players the praise they deserve. They are disciplined, committed and focused. You can see with today’s match, it was easy to go through the emotions after winning a cup final.”
True to Mokwena's sentiments, that they have “top professional and fantastic human-beings", there were a couple of players that played in the MTN8 final against Cape Town City before returning home and starting against the Team of Choice.
Meanwhile, Sundowns will be the fresher side when they visit Gallants on Sunday in Polokwane. The latter had to abandon their game on Wednesday – and resume it on Thursday – against AmaZulu after the two teams’ jerseys clashed.
But what will make things easier for Sundowns is the fact that they won't have to depend on seniors only. The new players have fitted like a glove also – with Neo Maema, one of the newbies, voted the Man of the Match on Wednesday night.
“I think whatever we talk about in relation to the new players, we mustn’t forget the performance of the players that were here last season. These are the players that make it easier for the integration of the new players,” said Mokwena.
With Sundowns set to play in the group stage of the CAF Champions League only in February next year, that will give them enough time to focus on local football – especially the league. And that’s why Mokwena expects them to be consistent.
“We want to create a team that will be difficult to be against. So far, all the players have taken that mandate and transformed it to the pitch. At the end of the day, you need good players to get the results," concluded the Brazilians' co-coach.