Sundowns' ageing squad need revamp
There are five 34-year-olds in the Mamelodi Sundowns' current squad and with an average age of 28, coach Pitso Mosimane has a tough task to refresh the team.
Hlompho Kekana, Denis Onyango, Kennedy Mweene, Wayne Arendse and Anthony Laffor have played a pivotal role over the years, but the reality is they are all 34 years old.
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Even more worrying for Mosimane would be the fact that even the likes of Tebogo Langerman (33) may no longer be able to play as many games as they did over the recent season.
Themba Zwane, Sibusiso Vilakazi, Andile Jali and Aubrey Ngoma are all 29, and with a few years ahead of them in the game.
The fact, however, is that these players have produced the goods for the Brazilians and it would be unfair to point out their age, without acknowledging their contribution.
Kekana, for example, played 45 matches in the 2018/19 campaign, as the skipper guided the Tshwane side to their record ninth Absa Premiership title, as well as reaching the CAF Champions League semifinals this year.
But Mosimane also has to face the reality that nothing lasts forever and in the case of old players injuries usually take longer to heal, which may affect them going forward.
Sundowns have been in this position before. The squad that won three consecutive league titles in the late 90s, with the last coming in 1999/2000 and reached the Champions League final in 2001 - they lost to Al Ahly - was great but when they left it took the club some time to win the league, which came in the 2005/06 season.
Defender Themba Mnguni, who was part of that dominant Sundowns outfit, is confident that Mosimane will rebuild the current team, while still competing for trophies.
"When coach Pitso brought the likes of (Lebohang) Maboe and Lyle Lakay, who are younger, it was precisely for continuation," Mnguni told Sowetan.
"So, I think they are quite aware about it (the ages of players), the good thing is that even the younger guys like Rivaldo (Coetzee) have also been playing in the Champions League, so we are in a manageable situation," he said.
Besides Coetzee (22) and Maboe (24), other younger Sundowns players are Motjeka Madisha (24), Sphelele Mkhulise (23) and Phakamani Mahlambi (21) just to mention a few.
Mnguni insisted that the future was bright for Sundowns despite the ageing squad.
"I don't think we will struggle that much," he said.
Sundowns are clearly rewarding performance at this stage and are not worried about age, considering that Onyango signed a new four-and-half-year contract this year.
Another former star, Roger Feutmba, said he understood that it's hard to let go of the current crop, the same way it happened during their time.
Feutmba, however, reckons that Sundowns would have to minimise playing old players in order to remain competitive.
"It's good to keep experienced players to guide the younger ones, but when they're too many, it's an issue," Feutmba said.
Downs have already released Cuthbert Malajila (33), but it seems the rest are staying.
"It's not easy to let go, but I believe Pitso is a very clever coach who knows what to do," Feutmba added.
Downs' 30+ club
- Hlompho Kekana (34)
Kennedy Mweene (34)
Wayne Arendse (34)
Tebogo Langerman (33)
Ricardo Nascimento (32)
Tiyani Mabunda (31)
Jeremy Brockie (31)
Emiliano Tade (31)
Anele Ngcongca (31)