Brilliant Sundowns academy graduate Nicholus Lukhubeni putting pressure on Pitso Mosimane
“HE puts me under pressure now,” Mamelodi Sundowns coach Pitso Mosimane said with a broad smile when talking about Nicholus Lukhubeni.
The Sundowns academy graduate put on a Man-of-the-Match performance in only his second start for the Brazilians in their 3-0 win over Chippa United on Saturday.
He capped off that performance with a brilliant goal that came 70 seconds into the match. Lukhubeni stole the ball in the centre of the pitch, went on a solo run before squeezing the ball past the Chippa goalkeeper.
It was a brilliant way to open his account.
“He kept going, and he had cold nerves,” Mosimane said. “I thought that he was going to pass. He kept going and going. He is very fortunate that he has a left and right foot, and he scored. Good for him and he won the Man-of-the-Match award, it’s unbelievable. He puts me under pressure now.”
The pressure that Mosimane is under is that he now must consider Lukhubeni for a starting berth against Bloemfontein Celtic at Loftus today. A week ago, Lukhubeni would have been lucky if he was on the bench with Thapelo Morena the club’s first choice at right-back.
But when Morena is pushed forward, the experienced Anele Ngcongca plays at right-back. Both, Morena and Ngcongca were nursing injuries which forced Mosimane to start Lukhubeni. The 23-year-old ran away with the opportunity.
“He was good, safe and playing it easy,” Mosimane said. “We kept talking to him a lot. We were on his case because he sometimes allowed the distance between him and the guy who is going to cross the ball to be big and allow the cross. It’s positioning. That needs experience.
Give him a break
“The Aneles, Langers (Tebego Langerman) and Thapelos know that thing. So, we have to give him a break. It’s OK.”
Even though Mosimane says that he is targeting all three competitions – the PSL, Nedbank Cup and Caf Champions League – the team he will field tonight and on Sunday will be revealing of what his main priorities are.
Mosimane is likely to field a full-strength team tonight, which could see Lukhubeni continue to start ahead of Ngcongca who was ruled out with a groin injury on Saturday. He won’t risk Ngcongca with Morena out for a lengthy spell
Sundowns need all three points against Phunya Sele Sele as it will move them to second place in the league standings – four points behind log-leaders Kaizer Chiefs. Mosimane can then can rest some players against Vaal University of Technology in the Nedbank Cup on Sunday, with one eye on the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final tie with Al Ahly in Egypt next weekend.
This is where the club’s academy graduates come in. Lukhubeni, Siphele Mkhulise and potential future captain Motjeka Madisha are the club’s next stars who are playing for the first team.
Mosimane has admitted that his conservative ways stalled Percy Tau and Mkhulise’s graduation to the first team. He will look to change that with future graduates by not only giving them a chance, but allowing them space to grow.
Promise Mkhuma is one of those. The former reserve team captain is a free-kick specialist. Mosimane said he will look at him first, and if he isn’t ready for the pressure of Sundowns’ first-team demands will send him out on loan to grow. But Mkhuma will be inspired by the likes of Lukhubeni who is putting pressure on Mosimane.