Three defensive stalwarts who stood out last season

Grant Kekana of Mamelodi Sundowns is one of three players nominated for the defender of the season award. | BackpagePix

Grant Kekana of Mamelodi Sundowns is one of three players nominated for the defender of the season award. | BackpagePix

Published Jun 12, 2024


The men in the backline don’t always get the plaudits they deserve. Today, Mihlali Baleka, Smiso Msomi and Obakeng Meletse debate their picks.

Grant Kekana of Mamelodi Sundowns. | BackpagePix

I recall, says Mihlali, the great Sir Alex Ferguson was on the money when he said, “attack wins you games, defence wins you titles” given Mamelodi Sundowns’ defensive exploits last season.

The Brazilians went about their title in style, conceding only 11 goals across 30 DStv Premiership games, in which their only blemish was losing the last game of the season. But while that took a collective effort to accomplish, I want us to zoom in on the exploits of central defender Grant Kekana who was an ever-present for the team.

Kekana played 37 matches for the Brazilians last season across all competitions, the most for the team in a single season. Kekana also showed his maturity by holding the hand of whomever he was partnered with: Mothobi Mvala, Mosa Lebusa or Abdul Boteilman.

The fact that he is tipped to win the PSL Defender of the Season award also speaks volumes for how much he’s grown since joining the club in 2021.

Tapelo Xoki of Orlando Pirates. | BackpagePix

Hold on now, Mihlali, let’s consider a player outside of Sundowns ... perhaps our defender of the season is in Soweto, opines Obakeng – Tapelo Xoki.

The 29-year-old has been an integral part of the Sea Robbers who salvaged a last-minute CAF Champions League spot, to go with the defence of their two major trophies.

Needing calm and composure at the back, the lanky defender’s exploits protected Pirates’ goal. They conceded only 26 goals – the joint fifth-best record in the league.

In my opinion, Xoki excelled every time he stepped in to assume the leadership role when regular captain Innocent Maela was not in the line-up, and he embraced the responsibility both defensively and offensively. He scored two goals in the Premiership as well.

Like Kekana, the former Amazulu defender has also been nominated as the defender of the season, and is my pick to be honoured with the award.

Fawaaz Basadien of Stellenbosch. | BackpagePix

Those are good options, but perhaps a wild card in these discussions is Fawaaz Basadien, according the Smiso.

He has come of age and has been an exhilarating watch this season as he showcased a consistent masterclass in modern fullback play.

The Stellenbosch left-back is arguably the most underrated in his position in the country but this season displayed a perfect blend of aggressive marking as well as technical chance creation. The 27-year-old is one of Stellies’ most reliable performers having featured 36 times in all competitions.

His six assists and a goal placed him among the top creators in the league this season and played a big role in Stellenbosch’s historic 25-match unbeaten streak.

The former Moroka Swallows man has found a home in the Cape Winelands and found the soft spot in his game, which has seen him feature in Bafana Bafana preliminary lists this season. Basadien also played a big role in helping Stellenbosch keep 15 clean sheets this season.

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