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By The Numbers: Young Player Of The Season

With the DSTV Premiership coming to an end, the focus will soon turn to the end-of-season awards.

Relebohile Mofokeng

With the DSTV Premiership coming to an end, the focus will soon turn to the end-of-season awards. Last week, we highlighted some of the best (creative) midfielders in the division who stand a chance to win the Midfielder of the Year award. This week, we take a step back and look at a handful of younger players who may (or may not) have gone under the radar. According to PSL criteria, players in contention must be Under 21 years of age in the year that the league started (2023) i.e. he must be born 1 January 2002 or later.

Young Player Involvement

Before getting into player details, it is worth looking at which teams have given Under 21 players minutes this season. Despite being relegated, Cape Town Spurs led the league for minutes given to young players this season, with almost a quarter of their time (24%) going to players Under 21. Supersport United (16%), Cape Town City (16%), and TS Galaxy (13%) are other teams who have given more than 10% of available minutes to players Under 21. Some teams may not feature in this Top 4, but when you consider the average age of the playing squad, teams like Stellenbosch (youngest) start to pop up.

Mokibelo Ramabu leads the minutes count for individual players under the age of 21, with 2125 minutes to his name. Cape Town Spurs’ defender Rushwin Dortley (2049) is the only other U21 player with more than 2000 minutes. The pair are closely followed by Jaedin Rhodes (1963), SuperSport’s Ime Okon (1835), and Royal AM’s Ayanda Jiyane (1800) in the Top 5.

Goals & Assists

PSL clubs have produced some good talent from their academies over the years. The rise of previous winners (and some subsequent exports) such as Luke Fleurs, Bongokuhle Hlongwane, and Cassius Mailula has been a testament to the quality of the talent pool available in South African football. Last season, Cassius Mailula won the award having scored nine goals & provided three assists in the league. Perhaps that’s the simplest place to start.

Most Goals By Players Under 21

  • 5 – Jaedin Rhodes (CT City)
  • 3 – Antonio van Wyk (Stellies)
  • 3 – Mokibelo Ramabu (Polokwane City)
  • 3 – Kayden Francis (Chippa)
  • 3 – Relebohile Mofokeng (Orlando Pirates)

Most Assists By Players Under 21

  • 5 – Relebohile Mofokeng
  • 4 – Shandre Campbell
  • 3 – Antonio van Wyk

When we consider simple goal contributions (goals and assists), Stellenbosch’s Antonio van Wyk and Orlando Pirates’ Relebohile Mofokeng feature at the top of both lists. However, despite providing just one assist, Jaedin Rhodes is the top-scoring young player. Mofokeng, meanwhile, (3G 5A) is the outright leader for direct goal involvement (8).

Chances Created

Beyond goals and assists, some of these young players have been key creative outlets for their sides. In this regard, Polokwane City’s Ramabu is the outright leader and is 11th on the chances created list for the entire division (all ages).

Chances Created (incl. set plays):

  • 35 – Mokibelo Ramabu
  • 32 – Jaedin Rhodes
  • 24 – Shandre Campbell
  • 21 – Siyanda Mthanti (Golden Arrows)
  • 20 – Relebohile Mofokeng

Chances created also include set-piece deliveries that end in a goalscoring opportunity, so we can always filter out just for chances created from open play. Of the 32 chances Jaedin Rhodes created, only three of these were from set-pieces. That makes him the outright leader for open play opportunities created for his teammates. Only seven players in the entire division created more chances from open play than Rhodes’ 29.

Chances Created From Open Play:

  • 29 – Jaedin Rhodes
  • 24 – Shandre Campbell
  • 21 – Siyanda Mthanti (Golden Arrows)
  • 18 – Relebohile Mofokeng
  • 18 – Antonio van Wyk
  • 17 – Mokibelo Ramabu
  • 17 – Yamela Mbuthuma (Richards Bay)

Like any stats, these should all be understood in context. Stats are merely a guide on where to focus decision-making (in this case awards) and not the be-all and end-all of player analysis. A player like Rushwin Dortley has been called upon to cover defensively for a porous Spurs side that have conceded 43 goals this season. As such, you find him as the outright leader for tackles, tackles won, and interceptions among young players. Other defenders like Asekho Tiwani who have been part of stable defences, may not have needed to make tackles and interceptions. 

Teams with less possession (Spurs average the lowest this season) may defend more & their defenders will have more tackles & interceptions. Plus, not all good defending is tangible: for example, shielding a striker away from a danger zone. That said, when we see some common names popping up constantly in the key metrics, that can’t be ignored. In addition to the above, Dortley (2nd), Rhodes (3rd), Okon (4th), Mofokeng (5th) & Ramabu (6th) are also in the top ranks for passes. Campbell (4th), Rhodes (3rd), and Ramabu (1st) are also in the Top 5 U21 players for winning possession in the final third.

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