PUMA Football caught up with Mamelodi Sundowns midfielder Themba Zwane for a Q&A.
Mamelodi Sundowns had a run of poor form earlier in the season failing to win five Absa PSL games in a row, but you were quoted in the media saying you believed the team would bounce back, which you did and nearly defended your league title – why do you have such confidence and belief in team, what are the team’s strengths?
Our biggest strength is teamwork, players are always looking to make the other better and stronger. We have also assembled a good quality squad – every player brings a different skill that benefits the team.
You have been at Mamelodi Sundowns for 6 years. What do you love about playing for Mamelodi Sundowns – their style of play, the way the club is managed?
I love the style of play, the team is always going out to impose itself to the opposition without fear. We win some and lose some but generally, we leave the field of play knowing that we played without fear and we gave everything. I enjoy that more than anything at Sundowns.
There appears to be a sense of unity in the Sundowns’ camp, who do you lean on for inspiration within the team and coaching staff?
All 3 coaches, Pitso, Manqoba and Rulani give me so much inspiration. They have been supporting and encouraging me from day one.
Your teammate and fellow PUMA ambassador, Percy Tau has been asked to play as a “false 9” this season, have you enjoyed this new tactic of using a “false 9” and how did you have to adapt your way of playing in this new system?
I have thoroughly enjoyed it, playing with Percy is easy as he is always a step ahead of the opposition. We have adapted the way we move off the ball and our passing patterns too, it has been eye opening and very refreshing.
You can play either wing or as a 10 behind the striker – what is your preferred position and why?
My preferred position is a number 10.
How has your play developed over this season – which areas of your game have you strengthened and how did you go about improving your play?
I have improved a lot on scoring. That was one area that was missing in my game. At the beginning of the season I challenged myself to score off a lot more chances. Scoring eight goals this season is a huge step up for from previous seasons.
How does playing in the CAF Championship league differ from the PSL?
Champions league is a lot more tactical than PSL the pace is faster too. Overall, the atmosphere is electrifying. All the games we played there were packed to capacity.
What is your highlight of the season?
Winning the Super Cup and scoring eight goals.
What does it mean to you when you hear someone like Clive Barker saying you are the next Doctor Khumalo?
It’s a great honour for a legendary coach like Clive Barker to have so much faith in me; his contribution to my career was immense. For him to compare me to one of the best players this continent has ever produced was humbling. I hope I can get to Doctor’s level, if not, half as good would still be a great achievement too. Ha-ha.
Which are your PUMA boots of choice to play in and why do they suit your style?
I was an evoPOWER player for a while but have recently started using PUMA ONE. It is indeed the ONE, the fit and feel of it is great. It’s light too so I am still faster than ever. I love them a lot.
The sponsorship agreement between PUMA and Sundowns is proving to be very successful. How has the team benefitted from the association with PUMA?
Well, I guess I was the happiest when PUMA came on board with Sundowns because they are my personal sponsor. The beginning was tough as it was closer to the start of the season and we were still playing CAF too. As the season progressed, things were getting better by the day. The team benefits in different ways, our trip to JAPAN was amazing as we received amazing apparel support from PUMA. All the Sundowns players are also allowed to shop at all PUMA stores at a special discount, players love that initiative from the brand.