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DStv Premiership

How Downs Duo Maema & Kekana Silenced Doubters

Mamelodi Sundowns duo Neo Maema and Grant Kekana were two signings questioned by the club’s supporters – but they have been serving some humble pie of late.

Maema who turns 26 next month was cited as the ‘Keagan Dolly replacement’ the left-footed winger the club craved since the departure of the Bafana Bafana star.

But with just 70 appearances under his belt for the now-defunct Bloemfontein Celtic and 12 goal contributions – the player who turns 26 next month hardly got pulses racing.

As was the case for Grant Kekana, the 29-year-old defender who looked to be signed as back-up seems undroppable at the moment with his performances in the heart of the defence playing a pivotal role in their record-breaking run in the 2021/22 season.

Nine games played in the DStv Premiership, no goals conceded, the defence first approach with nothing fancy attached to his game has complimented the likes of Mosa Lebusa and Rushine de Reuck – who are then allowed to be the more expansive and play out of defence. The Wayne Arendse role if you like…

How did they achieve this?

Maema, after winning a second consecutive Man of the Match performance in the 4-0 rout of Marumo Gallants stated the senior players played a crucial role in his performances since joining the club.

These were the exact words co-coach Rhulani Mokwena uttered when iDiski Times probed him about the incredible influence of the signings that’s gone against their usual transfer business of chasing high-profile names in South African football.

“I think whatever we speak about in relation to the performances of the new players, we must forget the importance of the players that were here last season or senior players. These are the players that have ensured that it’s easy for the integration of the new players and they make the environment conducive for the integration,” he said in a previous session with the media.

“Without speaking about them, it becomes difficult to speak about the new players. Huge credit to the people like (Themba) Mshishi (Zwane), Kennedy Mweene, Denis (Onyango), Mosa (Lebusa) and Andile Jali for allowing these new players with so much potential to adapt and come in and giving them the trust to be accepted within the group.”

But for all the help of the senior statesman who’s won every single trophy on offer domestically and some even part of the continental glory – they’ve still had to get their head down and prove their worth ahead of some star-studded performers.

Maema in particular has kept the likes of Gaston Sirino watching from the sidelines with the new transfer policy already bearing fruition in the post-Pitso Mosimane era.

It appears that the dominance of Masandawna is sustainable – as they meticulously replace the legends of the past with younger players, yet with experience of the local game, towards the next steps of their career as they thrive with the new challenges of the lure of silverware across all competitions.

“They have worked very hard to get the trust of their teammates and that becomes the number one responsibility of any player that gets integrated into an existing group. The most important thing in that space is to make sure that you can buy in through effort, commitment and training attitude,” Mokwena explained.

“When you see players like this, not just the quality but with competitive experience in the PSL, you then translate that into performances. But yeah, good work done not just by the technical team but the vision of the senior management to try and cut down the average age of the squad.

“The scouting department in terms of the hard work they put in behind the scenes. So as I said, it’s a collective effort, all the good things we see is a result of a lot of hard work by so many people behind the scenes over the years.”

Kekana and Maema were among seven signings made by the club during the off-season; which include Pavol Šafranko, Sifiso Ngobeni, Divine Lunga, Pule Maraisane and Thabiso Kutumela.

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