Rulani reveals what it’ll take for Mabena to play regularly at Downs

Mamelodi Sundowns coach Rulani Mokwena has revealed what it will take for teenage sensation Siyabonga Mabena to get regular game time in his star-studded side.

This was at the back of the hard-fought Nedbank Cup quarter-final tie against AmaTuks (University of Pretoria) at the Lucas Moripe Stadium on Friday night, where Sundowns needed penalties to secure a place in the semi-finals of the competition against a lower-division side.

Sundowns won 4-3 on penalties following a 1-1 draw after regulation and extra-time.

Teenage sensation was the big talking point

Mabena, 17, was once again the big talking point. This after the teenager came on in the second half and made an instant impact. He kept the crowd on their feet every time he had the ball.

His impressive performance has since sparked a conversation amongst Sundowns fans. Suggestions are that maybe the School of Excellence product should get more minutes under his belt. Just like his counterpart Relebohile Mofokeng, who is a regular starter at Orlando Pirates.

“First of all, the environments [Pirates and Sundowns] are completely different. And number two, the feeling I have is that the youth of today think everything is easy. After one good performance they will think ‘I must now start games’. No, that is not how it works,” Mokwena responded to Sunday World in a post-match interview.

“The other day [two weeks ago] we were complimenting Mshishi [Themba Zwane] for making 400 appearances. And going down history lane, do you know when Mshishi was signed at Sundowns? How many months he waited for to make his debut? Nine, nine months.

Still has a long way to go

“So, you see the longevity. And I tell the young players all the time that they’ve got incredible talent. But the problem is that after one good performance they will be on a back page of a newspaper or social media. And then the player stops working hard.

“I would rather have a longevity player like Zwane than a one-season wonder. Because I have seen them so many times in my career where they just whistle away. So, I try to always keep them on the edge.

Big global stars also started somewhere

Mokwena went on to tell a short story about the upbringing of football great Cristiano Ronaldo and Robin van Persie. He said their kids could not believe the dire conditions that they grew up under.

“My feeling is that society these days is completely against the welfare and upbringing of these kids. And it is the same way I need to continue with Mabena, Ntando [Nkosi], Thando [Buthelezi], Kutlwano [Letlhaku] and [Khunjulwa] Mali. Because they’ve got incredible potential, but sometimes you’ve got to dim the light on them.

“They must understand that life is hard, things will not be handed out to them. Every time I look at them and see the desire and appetite, they will play.”

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