Mamelodi Sundowns chairman Tlhope Motsepe says it brings a smile to his face to see Cassius Mailula starring in the absence of injured star striker Peter Shalulile.
Mailula has stepped up big time for Sundowns in the last two months, leading the line and scoring goals like he has been at the top-flight level for a long time.
This past weekend, Mailula scored three goals as Sundowns claimed the Carling Black Label Cup. He netted once when Sundowns beat AmaZulu 3-0 in the semi-final and twice as they crushed Orlando Pirates 4-0 in the final.
The three goals scored by Mailula bring to eight goals in 10 matches in all competitions, with his development pleasing Motsepe.
“It is always a moment of pride to see an academy player get his debut and you see an academy player score a goal and to see an academy playing on the pitch,” said Motsepe at World Football Summit in Durban.
“It’s not only a moment of pride for us, but to hear that in the crowd, it is always a moment with the supporters as well.
“We definitely are going to try our best to always nurture these boys but it’s about balance as well. We have so much respect for our senior players as well for what they have done. They are the custodian of the club’s tradition, we can’t take that for granted.”
When Sundowns crushed Maritzburg United 5-0 at Harry Gwala Stadium last month, Mailula became the second youngest player to score a brace for Sundowns at the age of 21 years, four months and 14 days old.
Raphael Chukwu is the youngest player for Sundowns to score a brace, as he was 20 days younger than Mailula, in November 1996 away against AmaZulu.
On that day, Sundowns became the first team to win five league matches on the bounce and now it is six matches to set the pace on top of the DStv Premiership table with 28 points after 13 games. However, they are short with two points from last season’s tally at the same stage last season when they had 30 points.
Sundowns are five points ahead of second-placed Richards Bay, with KwaZulu-Natal side having played a game more going to the FIFA World Cup break.
“We see and we recognize the wonderful talent we have in our academy structures,” added Motsepe.
“It is important to give credit to the Head of Methodology Shaun Bishop, coach Sam Mbatha [Head of Academy] and everyone across the board.
“It’s even important to give recognition to their mothers and fathers to take care of these young lives in our academy structures. The way the club is doing, it is always the way the club will go. We are not going to transform [overnight] automatically to become a club that only focuses on the youth.
“We need to blend that with experienced players who can guide these young talents to develop and feel confident in their abilities as they perform on the pitch.”