Mamelodi Sundowns have dominated the South African domestic football scene for years now winning different accolades including the recent three seasons of winning three league titles in a row.
FARPost looks at some of the key factors that have driven the Tshwane based side to their triumph in the past few years, ahead of tonight’s Nedbank Cup final clash against Bloemfontein Celtic.
1. CAF EXPERIENCE
Since roping in coach Pitso Mosimane in 2012, the Brazilians have built a machine that has not just been dominant domestically but also in continental championships such that in the past 5 years the ‘Brazilians’ have been a force to be reckoned in the continent. Their triumph in the 2015-16 CAF champions league was a testament to this transition.
Playing in CAF competitions meant that Sundowns had to go into different territories playing different opponents who play different style and employ different tactics which helped them adapt to different situations and pressure.
Their experience in the Champions League enabled them to know how to manage games and the physical conditioning of players. For the past two seasons Sundowns have had to play catch up to both Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs in the league after trailing by a large number of points, on both occasions going on to win the Absa Premiership tittle. Their experience playing in front of hostile crowds in different weather conditions and different styles of play have enabled them to be able to face different opponents in the league regardless of the conditions. For example, recently the pitches weren’t in perfect shape nor was playing in front of empty stands but the Brazilians still came up tops.
2. CONVERTING OF PLAYERS
Coach Mosimane is one of the coaches that are known for converting players from one position to the other, most of the time the tactic bearing fruits. Bafana Bafana midfielder Bongani Zungu is one of the success stories as the midfielder was converted from a more advanced attacking midfield role to a current holding midfield role.
More recently, Mosimane has continued the culture with the conversion of players like Lyle Lakay from a winger to a left position. Motjeka Madisha can play both as a right back and centre back, while Musa Lebusa can play as a left and centre back while in recent games Lebohang Maboe was played as a right back and later won Sundowns the League scoring a hattrick on match day 30 against Black Leopards after being played at his favoured more attacking role. Rivaldo Cotzeee has been converted from his usual centre back to a holding midfield role where he has been one of the key players for Sundowns shielding the defence and starting play from deep in his own half.
The versatility and converting of players has benefited the Brazilians with each player taking responsibility for different roles instead of relying on individuals for each position during congested fixture schedules.
3. SQUAD DEPTH
Another key factor that has worked for Sundowns is the amount of depth in their squad with several players vying for each position.
At left back veteran defender Tebogo Langerman competes with Lyle Lakay while players like Ricardo Nascimento , Bangaly Soumahoro, Madisha and Wayne Arendse fight for the centre back spots at Chloorkop. In the midfield towards the end of the campaign experienced players like Andile Jali and Tiyani Mabunda have started from the bench several times with players like Coetzee starting ahead of them while players like Sibusiso Vilakazi have been kept outside the squad by young players like Sphelele Mkhulise.
4. GAME BY GAME TACTICS
What makes Sundowns unique from some of its rivals is their very consistent technical team that has been together for the past 5 years and more. Towards the end of the season teams play for every point under difficult circumstance which requires good game management tactics, something which Sundowns technicwl team have mastered to do.
In the title decider against Kaizer Chiefs the Brazilians took the lead through Gaston Sirino and in the second half made some substitutions to manage the opposition towards the 80th minute including introducing Phakamani Mahlambi up front for counter attacks while Jali managed the game from the midfield. In the end the league title was won on the final day and all tactical plans by the technical team executed effectively.
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By Prince Sobayeni