Mamelodi Sundowns have given five players the chance to ‘rest and recuperate’ after representing Bafana Bafana at the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt.
Sundowns captain Hlompho Kekana, Tiyani Mabunda and the attacking trio of Themba Zwane, Sibusiso Vilakazi and Lebohang Maboe will be allowed to take two weeks off before rejoining their teammates for full pre-season, the club confirmed.
While the rest of the Sundowns players have already returned and are in Mpumalanga until Saturday, the group that was with the South African national team is expected back in the country this weekend.
Tiyani Mabunda is the only player who did not get an opportunity to play, with Kekana featuring for the full 90 minutes against Namibia. Following that, he came off the bench against Morocco and Egypt. Kekana was an unused sub against Nigeria, who beat Bafana 2-1 in the quarter-finals of the Afcon on Wednesday night.
Zwane started all of the group-stage matches against Ivory Coast, Namibia and Morocco but was suspended for the last-16 clash against the hosts. He returned as a second-half substitute in the defeat by the Super Eagles.
Vilakazi beat the odds to recover from a serious injury in October last year while on national team duty to make coach Stuart Baxter’s Afcon squad and also played a role in Bafana’s quarter-final finish at the tournament. ‘Vila’ also featured in all of the group-stage matches, but only formed part of the match-day squad in the knockout phase against Egypt and Nigeria.
Sundowns top goal-scorer in the Absa Premiership last season, Maboe was among several debutants at the Afcon and broke into the starting lineup in the first game against Ivory Coast. He did not make any other appearances beyond that.
These five Downs players have been with the national team since 3 June and did not have an adequate pre-season break. In managing their load, the club has agreed to give them rest to refresh and recuperate before their opening game of the 2019-20 season, scheduled for 3 August.
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