After winning the MultiChoice Diski Challenge last season, the Mamelodi Sundowns Reserves team failed to live up to expectations this season.
However, coach David Notoane is confident the team is making good progress.
After clinching the tournament, Sundowns travelled to the Netherlands and came back victorious.
They brushed aside the home team and reached the final after a 2-0 win over Excelsior Rotterdam.
The MultiChoice International Challenge trophy was theirs after beating the Japanese team Ichifuna FC 1-0 in the final.
Much was expected from Sundowns following their success last season, but things have not gone their way.
After a dismal start this season, Notoane said he was happy with the latest progress made by Masandawana.
“We continue to climb the log with consistency. As it is now, we are in a better position. I think we are in a good space and I am happy,” he said.
After struggling to win in the first few games, the Brazilians managed to win four of their past six games and scored a whopping 14 goals.
Sundowns started the year with a 1-1 draw against Chippa United and a 3-2 win over Polokwane City, which was followed by a 2-0 victory over Baroka FC. Next was a 3-1 triumph over Cape Town City before they walloped Free State Stars 5-2.
Their only loss was to Ajax Cape Town last Sunday at Ikamva Stadium.
Notoane said the change in the team from last season’s winning league squad contributed to their slow start this season.
Before their recent change of fortunes, the team was at the bottom of the table.
“We changed the team. I said from day one that we are a new and young team that is evolving. Development is a process and it takes time.”
Joining the new-look team are 23-year-old Motjeka Madisha and 21-year-old Keletso Makgalwa.
“We are not yet where we want to be,” said Notoane.
“Yes, we are under pressure to deliver as Mamelodi Sundowns, but I think you can see now from where we were at the beginning to where we are now that we have made some big steps.”
Sundowns lost five of their nine games in the first half of the season. They conceded an unbelievable 20 goals and netted only 11, which left them in 15th place – just above Platinum Stars.
Their improved eighth place on the log is thanks to a tighter defence, which has let in only seven goals so far.
Notoane said the team still had obstacles to deal with before they reached their full potential.
“There are still a lot of things to fix in our game. We test certain young players because we promoted them hoping that, in two to three years’ time, they will mature and push for a place in the first team.
“If you ask me about the first nine games, the fixtures didn’t help us. I studied the log and I was like, ‘sh*t we are in for a rough ride’.”
The Pretoria-based team played all the big teams in the opening five games, including this year’s champions Golden Arrows.
Some of the regulars on the team since the start of the season include Thomas Sambo, Sibusiso Khumalo and Cassius Mailula.