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Will Rulani Mokwena give his stars a rest when Sundowns take on Orlando Pirates?

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There is a high likelihood that Mokwena could be forced to call on the peripheral players this weekend as the DStv Premiership season resumes after a month-long Africa Cup of Nations-induced break.

Bafana Bafana midfielder Teboho Mokoena (No.4) may be rested for Mamelodi Sundowns’ clash against Orlando Pirates. Picture: Sia Kambou, AFP

Though it is generally accepted that Mamelodi Sundowns are unmatched in the domestic league when it comes to strength in depth, coach Rulani Mokwena has barely had to illustrate that advantage.

The young coach has been consistent in his choice of his starting XI despite the Brazilians competing on many fronts. And why should he not be, given the club’s success with an established team?

After all, do they not say if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it?

It cannot be described as broken, but there is a high likelihood that Mokwena could be forced to call on the peripheral players this weekend as the DStv Premiership season resumes after a month-long Africa Cup of Nations-induced break.

The defending champions host Orlando Pirates on Saturday night in the pick of the weekend’s fixtures as they strive to remain top of the table in search of yet another victorious league campaign.

But with no less than eight of his key players having been part of Bafana Bafana’s squad that finished third at the biennial continental showpiece and only returning home on Wednesday morning, Mokwena is likely to tackle the match with a vastly changed starting team.

All of Ronwen Williams, Khuliso Mudau, Mthobi Mvala, Grant Kekana, Aubrey Kekana, Themba Zwane, Teboho Mokoena, Thapelo Morena, Thapelo Maseko and Terrence Mashego were members of Hugo Broos’ squad, with the first six playing in the majority of Bafana’s six matches in Ivory Coast.

Fortunately, such is the quality of the Sundowns squad that even without these key players the Brazilians should still be able to field a team competitive enough to beat a Pirates side that will probably also be sans some of their regulars who were with Bafana.

Though Evidence Makgopa was the only one who played regularly at the Cup of Nations, Zakhele Lepasa, Thapelo Xoki, Nkosinathi Sibisi and Thabang Monare would be among those who arrived home on Wednesday and would surely not have had enough rest from their travels.

It makes for a fascinating clash, with fifth-placed Pirates still nursing hopes of mounting a challenge for the championship despite trailing leaders Sundowns by 13 points.

On 38 points from just 14 matches, Sundowns are again looking set to win the league title at a canter and will be out to make a statement of intent by beating Pirates with what is likely to be seen as their second-string team.

With the PSL having postponed the midweek matches due to Bafana’s late arrival, all the league’s teams will be in action at the weekend with the clash between SuperSport and Stellenbosch FC in Polokwane another fascinating encounter.

Gavin Hunt’s Matsatsantsa a Pitori are third on the table with the same number of points (29) as second-placed Cape Town City, and will still be hopeful of giving Sundowns a run for their money despite trailing the title-holders by nine points.

Three points behind SuperSport with a game in hand, Stellies will need no extra motivation to go for the maximum points given the knowledge they would usurp their adversaries with an away victory.

Steve Barker’s team are chasing a fifth league success on the trot.

At the other end of the 16-team table, the bottom dwellers have it tough as they seek to move away from the relegation zone. Cape Town Spurs host eighth-placed AmaZulu with the intention of adding to their paltry four points.

They are nine points behind Richards Bay United, who have a tricky clash away to a Sekhukhune United outfit that had a couple of their players representing their countries at the Afcon.

THIS WEEK’S FIXTURES

Friday: SuperSport United vs Stellenbosch FC.

Saturday: Chippa United vs Cape Town City; Swallows vs Polokwane City; Sekhukhune United vs Richards Bay; Cape Town Spurs vs AmaZulu; Mamelodi Sundowns vs Orlando Pirates.

Sunday: Royal AM vs Kaizer Chiefs; TS Galaxy vs Golden Arrows.

@Tshiliboy

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