Mamelodi Sundowns head coach Rulani Mokwena has explained the reasons for benching the core of his first choice players in the 2-0 win over Maritzburg United in the Nedbank Cup Round of 16 tie at the Lucas Moripe Stadium on Sunday. 

Key goalkeeper Ronwen Williams was not named on the matchday squad, while other regulars Teboho Mokoena and Themba Zwane were left on the bench.

The trio, alongside Thapelo Morena, Aubrey Modiba, Terrence Mashego and Grant Kekana have been called to Bafana Bafana’s squad to face Andorra and Algeria in friendlies.

Rulani has raised concern about his players getting overworked in the international break.

“It’s tough because Ronza (Ronwen Williams) is struggling with a shoulder injury and we’ve got a very important Champions League game and Tebza (Teboho Mokoena) is struggling with a knee and they’ve had them since the Afcon.

“It’s only now that we have Mothobi Mvala back and Sailor (Khuliso Mudau) is also back but we still have a problem with Thapelo Maseko who also got the injury at the Afcon. We try to protect our players as best as we can. A rest is important so that they can minus the load,” Rulani told the media after the game.

Sundowns are due to compete in the CAF Champions League, Nedbank Cup and DStv Premiership when the season returns after the FIFA break.

“It helps with the schedule we have and they are fresher for the champions league. But it’s not easy because at the same time we have to win games and you can’t say to people that we didn’t have Aubrey Modiba, Ronwen and Tebza but you know how important they are to us,” added Rulani.

Rulani also revealed that some players called up for Bafana have been carrying niggling injuries lately.

“They were rested because they’ve got niggling injuries and that’s really the truth. Are the injuries strong enough to keep them away from Bafana Bafana? I don’t know. 

“As a club we have always supported the national team and we will continue to do that. If we can rest a bit Themba Zwane (it would be good) even though he is suspended for our trip to Tanzania and he won’t be available for the first leg. He is very important for us,” added Rulani.