The PSL Emerging Class of 2020

By Carl Lewis

Another season has come and gone and with the lockdown in the middle of the 2019/2020 season, it has certainly been the longest in the history of the PSL. Of course, every year new players emerge at teams, and with the resumption of the leagues in the bio-bubble, we have seen a whole host of younger players getting chances.

And while it is great to see these young players getting cameos in this unique situation, who are the younger players who have begun to actually stake a claim for starting positions? While we have seen a lot of new faces, it actually hasn’t been a season where a lot of younger players have claimed first-team spots regularly.

I’ve tried to look at players who were 23 or younger and played in at least 10 games for the first time this season And here it is, the 2019/2020 Absa Premiership Emerging XI…

Goalkeeper – Sifiso Mlungwana – Golden Arrows

Born: 22 January 1996

It hasn’t really been a season for young goalkeepers in the Absa Premiership, but Mlungwana and Amazulu’s Neil Boshoff (who turned 24 in January), have featured regularly for the two Durban sides this season. Mlungwana is for all intents and purposes a rookie, but having been given his chance earlier this year, he has seized the opportunity and held onto the starting berth. Definitely one for the future, he is also one of the candidates to go the Olympics with David Notoane’s under-23 squad next year. Mlungwana joined Arrows after impressing for the University of Kwazulu-Natal in varsity football. He is currently doing his final year in a sports science degree.

Absa Premiership Debut: 8 January 2020 v Baroka

Left-back – Sifiso Ngobeni – Bloemfontein Celtic

Born: 8 February 1997

Ngobeni pretty much emerged from nowhere this season and has already got a few tongues wagging. The Celtic team has surprised many this season, as they were expected to struggle considering their financial difficulties. But thanks to their ability to uncover players like Ngobeni, the Bloemfontein outfit should never be underestimated. Alongside Bongani Sam and Siphesihle Mabiliso, he is one of the more exciting young left-backs in the country. Ngobeni is one for the future, and Celtic will hope to hang on to him for as long as possible. Ngobeni came through trials at the club and has been described as a future Bafana Bafana star by his coach John Maduka. He was also included in ‘s Bio Bubble Team selection.

Absa Premiership Debut: 21 September 2019 v Chippa United

Right-back -James Monyane – Orlando Pirates

Born: 30 April 2000

I first got to see Monyane playing as a forward at the Bayhill Tournament, and also at junior national level, but the talented Amajita player has mostly got his chances at right-back this season. He has shown his potential, and he will hope to build on his performances next season. Monyane has the qualities to excel at right-back and has a great mentor in Happy Jele to learn from at the Bucs. But it remains to be seen if he will stay in that position. I remember Oupa Manyisa also starting at right back at Pirates before shifting into the midfield. However, with Pirates not having a lot of depth at right-back, Monyane could see this an opportunity to make the position his own.

Absa Premiership Debut: 3 August 2019 v Bloemfontein Celtic

Central defence – Luke Fleurs – SuperSport United

Born: 3 March 2000

I have known Luke for a few years now, and to be honest he’s already ’emerged’ once, though that was in the NFD with Ubuntu three seasons ago. He was this exciting teenager at the time, and now three years later he’s developed into a very mature 20-year-old. The Ubuntu Academy in Cape Town can take a lot of credit for the work they did with Fleurs, and his SuperSport teammate Jesse Donn, who are not only good footballers, but impressive young men. Fleurs has blossomed at SuperSport, and with senior defenders like Bongani Khumalo and Clayton Daniels guiding him, he can only get stronger.

Absa Premiership Debut: 28 November 2018 v Bloemfontein Celtic

Centre-back – Keanu Cupido – Cape Town City

Born: 15 January 1998

In Cupido’s case, I’ve added him because of his performances over the last year or two, rather than just this season. Due to injuries at City, Cupido has had to step up a little earlier in his career than the club might’ve preferred. While he has made a few errors, he has also shown that he has a great deal of potential. Cupido is a product of the Diambars Academy and spent a year with Ajaccio in France before joining City. His performances at City were so good he got himself back on the national radar and he earned his first Bafana Bafana caps at the Cosafa Cup.

Absa Premiership Debut: 8 August 2018 v Baroka

Midfield – Shane Roberts – Cape Town City

Born: 18 July 1998

The former Hellenic academy youngster has shown a great deal of promise for a few seasons. In fact, when Benni McCarthy joined the club in 2017, Roberts was one of the players he told me he was very excited about and believed the youngster should be in Europe already. Their former MDC captain’s integration into the first team was a steady and slow process, but this season he has shown signs of the potential that McCarthy believed he had back then.

Absa Premiership Debut: 17 February 2018 v Kaizer Chiefs

Midfield – Goodman Mosele – Baroka

Born: 18 November 1999

To be fair had I drawn up a list like this last season, like Cupido, Mosele would have featured then already, but this season he cemented his spot in the Baroka setup. The gifted young midfielder has all the potential to become a real star of the league and is also being linked with a move to a European club. With a good physical presence, and the skills to match, Mosele has the potential to be a future international star, and he is one to monitor over the next few seasons

Absa Premiership Debut: 19 August 2017 v Polokwane City

Midfield – Sphesihle Maduna – Amazulu

Born: 26 December 1999

After cameos in 2017/18 and 18/19, Sphesihle Maduna stepped up to become a regular at Usuthu this season. The youngster from Ladysmith first came to Durban as a teen to play at the Arrows Academy but returned to his home when he was 15. He joined Amazulu a year or so later and worked his way up the ranks. This season he has shown a lot of maturity in a struggling team, and there are rumours his time at Amazulu may not last much longer, with interest from a few Gauteng teams. It is never easy for a young player to break through when his club is battling, but it can be character-building for the player. The former Ohlange High School student will have learnt a lot this season.

Absa Premiership Debut: 12 May 2018 v Cape Town City

Midfield – Sipho Mbule – SuperSport Utd

Born: 22 March 1998

While Mbule’s talent has been on show for a few seasons, the 2019/20 season will be the one he remembers for cementing his spot in the starting line-up. Before this season he had started just 7 matches, and he has been phenomenal considering. He and Teboho Mokoena have developed into top footballers at SuperSport. From the first time I saw Mbule at the Bayhill tournament many years ago, he has shown star quality and will be one to watch going forward. Incredibly skilful, with a great burst of pace, he has is a defender’s nightmare. He has 3 Bafana Bafana caps. Mbule and Mokoena come from the Harmony Academy in the Free State (which was founded by Molefi Ntseki), where they were groomed by former pro Pitso Mokoena.

Absa Premiership Debut: 19 August 2017 v Mamelodi Sundowns

Forward – Bongokuhle Hlongwane – Maritzburg Utd

Born: 20 June 2000

One of the most exciting talents in the country, Hlongwane announced himself during the playoffs last season, where he helped secure Maritzburg’s top-flight status. This season he had a bit more competition, especially when Jeremy Brockie was at the club, but when given a chance he showed what he is capable of. With a bit more consistency, and if he can make scoring goals a habit, Hlongwane could be soon knocking on the Bafana door.

Absa Premiership Debut: 24 April 2019 v Orlando Pirates

Forward – Lelethu Skelem – Stellenbosch

Born: 12 May 1998

One of Stellenbosch FC’s main objectives is to give players from the Cape Winelands opportunities, and as a local boy, Lelethu Skelem’s performances for the club must please the management. Steve Barker first told me about him about two years ago, and last season in the NFD I saw glimpses of Skelem’s potential as he featured regularly during their NFD winning season. He ended this season with some memorable goals that made sure he left his mark on the 2019/20 season. Skelem was playing amateur football for local club Maties FC just three years ago.

Absa Premiership Debut: 10 August 2019 v Cape Town City

The Team

Mlungwana, Ngobeni, Monyane, Fleurs, Cupido, Roberts, Mosele, Maduna, Mbule, Hlongwane, Skelem