The biggest criticism levelled at Mamelodi Sundowns has always been about the number of signings that they make and in turn, have a squad too large that some are left to rust and reduced to spectators.
However, Downs don’t always turn to their cheque book for recruitment as they have made it a habit to promote at least one player every season from their academy.
The poster-boys who have come from the club’s development structures will always be Percy Tau, the late Motjeka Madisha and Keagan Dolly.
This season the club introduced Cassius Mailula, whom co-coach Rulani Mokwena believes will be a household name.
“The reality is that we want to promote from the youth and we haven’t really given a lot of youngsters from the academy an opportunity. We need to be careful to not promote for the sake of promoting and not make it look like we are trying to popularize this thing of youngsters being given a chance,” said Mokwena.
“I think Cassius is going to be something special. The reality is that when these young ones are training with some of the best players in the country, they get to learn and to improve. We also have to be very careful that we don’t have situations that we had with Khayelihle Shozi and Promise Mkhuma,” Mokwena added.
While teams like SuperSport United and Stellenbosch pride themselves on promoting players from their academies, Mokwena says Sundowns cannot afford to adopt that model because a lot of more is expected from the defending DStv Premiership champions.
“It is not about winning the competition of who is promoting the most players. Thabiso Monyane was given a debut when I was still at Orlando Pirates and it has taken him a bit of a long time to entrench himself in the team but he is showing very good signs. But that is why we are here, to help these youngsters and the fact that I come from a background of youth development, I think that at the right time we will see a lot more,” said the Sundowns mentor.
He adds: “At the end of the day it is about winning and not a lot of people will give you an opportunity to say ‘but they are playing young players’ if we don’t win. The young ones are still going to cost you (games). That’s the nature of the game because they have to gain experience and the only way for that is to make mistakes and to be coached.”