Shakes Mashaba and fellow coach Khabo Zondo are determined to dismiss the notion that the Nedbank Ke Yona team was little more than a PR exercise.
Every year, the broadcasted Ke Yona Team Search scours the country for the best young talent before putting them through trials and selecting a final squad. PSL squads then have an opportunity to draft in the participants.
Bongani Sam, Aubrey Modiba and Bongani Mbuli are three of the notables discovered this way.
The youngsters then face off in a traditional match against the Nedbank Cup champions – which in recent years have included games against PSL giants such as Kaizer Chiefs and Sundowns.
It hasn’t gone too well for the up-and-comers, each one of those exhibitions has been lost and last year yielded the only goal they’ve scored.
“At Nedbank there’s one thing that we respect-gradual process,” Mashaba insisted on Tuesday ahead of this year’s game against Free State Stars. “We don’t want to kill ourselves and say ‘this year we need to score 10 goals’. No. What we’re looking at is where we need to improve.
“We played a game yesterday, we saw the improvement in the big match temperament in these boys. That’s why we’re so confident. That’s the main component in terms of players exerting themselves, displaying their skills – to have confidence. Don’t doubt yourselves.”
Mashaba warned that Free State Stars would suffer this newfound confidence first-hand, and would have the misfortune of being the first PSL team to lose the annual challenge against the amateurs.
The Nedbank Ke Yona challenge is scheduled for a 3pm kick-off on Sunday at Makhulong Stadium in Tembisa. Tickets are free and anyone can pick up a maximum of four from Computicket.
Last year, Modiba and Thuso Phala netted to give SuperSport United a 2-1 win in the challenge.
“Remember, we only have ten days to prepare these youngsters,” Zondo added. “When you’re in a match, tactical awareness must be improved, physical components must also be taken care of. All those aspects at times are very difficult to make sure that they’re well attended to.”