Evans, Mario Booysen leave United for Sundowns

2014-06-27 00:00

THE Maritzburg United side that will start the PSL season in August is almost unrecognisable. Defensive stalwarts Rheece Evans and Mario Booysen were the latest to leave the Team of Choice when they signed five-year deals at newly crowned league champions Mamelodi Sundowns yesterday.

Regular left back Ruben Cloete has already joined former boss Ernst Middendorp at Bloemfontein Celtic, while club captain and holding midfielder Michael Morton is off to SuperSport United.

The contracts of speedster Orlando Smeekes and Maritzburg veteran Peter Petersen have not been renewed, while winger Dillon Sheppard, centre back Robyn Johannes and Bafana Bafana international Delron Buckley were released towards the end of last season. In addition, playmaker Bongolethu Jayiya has returned to Wits after his loan spell.

So, coach Steve Komphela has some shopping to do, especially in defence where Booysen, Evans and Cloete were regulars in the second half of the 2013/14 campaign.

“The defence is certainly a big challenge for us, but Steve has identified a few players and we are in the process of recruiting,” chairperson Farouk Kadodia told The Witness yesterday.

Kadodia paid tribute to the service he had received from Evans and Booysen, the pair having had three and one years left on their respective Maritzburg contracts. Booysen’s aerial strength, awareness and composure on the ball will be missed, while Evans — just 23 — is fast becoming one of the PSL’s most respected fullbacks. Like any local player, representing Bafana Bafana is his dream, and there is far more chance of that happening as a Sundowns player.

United’s financial challenges are well documented and they have been known to off­load players in the pre-season to balance the books ahead of a new campaign. Last season Zimbabwean striker Cuthbert Malajila was sold, also to Sundowns, for a fee thought to be in the region of R8 million.

Kadodia could not confirm how much he sold Evans and Booysen for, but he did say that it “wasn’t as good as expected”.

Instead, Maritzburg will have first offer on “two or three” Sundowns players who have been made available for loan.

Right back Abel Mabaso (23), massively influential on loan for Mpumalanga Black Aces last season, is one of the players that Sundowns have made available and Maritzburg are looking at. Striker Rodney Ramagalela (25) and centre back Kwanda Mngonyana (20), who spent last season on loan at Wits, are the others. “These are the three players that we are interested in and are involved in negotiations with,” said Kadodia.

With natural leaders like Morton and Booysen out of the picture, Kadodia said that he expected the senior players still at the club, like goalkeeper Shu-Aib Walters, to step up to the plate. “We would definitely expect the players who have been at the club for a while to take on that extra responsibility,” he said. There are interesting times ahead for United. With a month and a half until kickoff and no new players unveiled, there is reason to be concerned.

The one shining light is that Komphela, responsible for transforming Maritzburg’s season last term, is still on board.

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