JOHANNESBURG – Mamelodi Sundowns’ chances of defending their MultiChoice Diski Challenge title are surely dented after their 3-3 draw against Bidvest Wits on Sunday.
Sundowns are the current Diski Challenge holders after an impressive campaign last season, when they captured the only domestic title which has been missing from their cabinet over the years.
Not only did Downs’ impressive form run through the African soil, it sailed as far as Europe.
Following success in the local MDC season, Downs took part in the four-team one day International Challenge in the Netherlands, brushing aside Excelsior 2-0 in the semi-finals before beating Japan’s Ichifuna 1-0 in the final to lift the international cup.
This season, though, there’s a different story to Downs’ performance – after eight games, the “Kabo Yellow Nation” are rock-bottom on the log after managing to collect only five points thus far.
“We know our problems are at the back,” the reserve team’s coach David Notoane said. “We do not have the right balance, the right maturity. We are not solid like last season.
“It’s young boys, some of them, they need to grow. They need to be playing at this level of competition for them to realise that when you make silly mistakes at the back, you get punished.”
With seven games to go, Sundowns can still collect 21 points if they are to win all the remaining games. However, even if that happens, it will be impossible for them to reclaim the league title as log leaders Golden Arrows have already banked 19 points.
This is a situation Notoane seems to have accepted.
“At this point in time, it’s going to be tough to catch up with the guys at the top there. We are a young team under reconstruction and we know where we are,” the former SuperSport United and Santos striker said.
“Of course the intention was while developing a new team and giving these boys exposure, to stay in the hunt and hopefully snatch it. Now we know how far off they are at this level of competition. You can see the gaps in maturity.
“For us, in terms of defending the trophy is going to be difficult – almost near impossible. But this is football, the six games in January... who say teams cannot lose three to four games?
“But to be realistic, we are out of reach in terms of defending the title.”
Sundowns’ delightful run last season was largely due to striker Keletso Makgalwa, who managed to net eight strikes and further assisted with 13 scoring passes.
It was a sizzling performance that caught the attention of first-team coach Pitso Mosimane, and Makgalwa was promoted to the senior team structures this season.
Notoane, though, reckons Makgalwa is far from reaching his peak.
“He has to learn to play for the team and himself, at the moment he is playing for himself. We are not going to allow that.
“He gave us a very poor first half (against Wits). There was no energy in his game, no effect, no commitment, and as youth coaches, we cannot tolerate young players who are not committed to the cause of the team,” Notoane said.