© Samuel ShivambuAuthor: Erica MathyeNumbers don’t lie and the Diski Team’s jersey number 7, Onele Rulwana, along with his stats, would back this statement. Oats, as affectionately known by his teammates, made headlines in the last match of the DStv Diski Challenge 2023/24 season, after he was named the Man of the Match against the Swallows Reserves. Of course, the accolade was no shock because the young man is no stranger to Man of the Match accolades. In fact, that was his third of the season.So, what makes Oats the numbers man? Having kicked off the season as a substitute in the first few games, his statistics and performances are remarkable. With 27 appearances to his name in his first season in the DDC, the 20-year-old has made 29 goal contributions: 7 goals, 14 assists and 8 secondary assists, the highest contributions amongst his Diski Team peers.

A Transnet School of Excellence (SOE) product, Onele Rulwana joined Mamelodi Sundowns at the age of 19 with his friend and teammate Siyabonga Mabena, with whom he made waves in both the SOE and Mamelodi Sundowns Diski Team. During the DDC pre-season, they were joined by two other mates, Kutlwano Letlhaku and Akhanyile Norawana, allowing them to refine their brotherhood on and off the pitch. Rulwana admitted that he enjoyed playing in the Reserves League with his long-time friends and new teammates.

“Joining a team of this caliber is an honour. When I joined Mamelodi Sundowns, I started in the U19 team, but a few months later, I was called to join the Diski Team, which was proof that the coaches could see the hard work that I had been putting in training and matches,” Oats said.
© Sydney Mahlangu“Being reunited with my friends and my teammates felt so good. I knew that there was a possibility to create magic – especially because we had played together for a few years. Coming to a new club and a new coach we would all have to make adjustments to the style of play, it did not take long for us together with the rest of the team, to find our rhythm."

Ironically, despite the 29 goal contributions this season, Oats admitted to not setting goals for himself because he feared he would disappoint himself. Instead, he exceeded everyone’s expectations, including his own, with his outstanding performances. He set the bar very high for the next season, undoubtedly.

“I hadn’t set any goals because I didn’t want to disappoint myself by not reaching my targets. I was both shocked and proud of the way I played in the just-concluded season. I just wanted to enjoy my football, hence I was shocked when I was told at the end of the season that I had made so many contributions. I am glad I could contribute to the success of the team in the manner that I did.”
© Samuel Shivambu“Starting the matches from the bench used to infuriate me because I felt like I deserved to start every game. But Coach Themba sat me down for a one-on-one where he helped me understand what I was doing wrong and how I could improve. I’m glad I listened to his and the other coaches’ advice because, in the second round of the season, I enjoyed playing again and earned myself starts in every match that I featured,” Onele stated.

For many young and upcoming footballers, the end goal is to go professional and play on bigger platforms, it is no different for the Diski Team starlet. In the next few years, Oats would like to see himself as a Mamelodi Sundowns First Team player, still making plenty of goal contributions.

“For next season, I would like to get minutes in the First Team and share the pitch with the many role models we have there. In the next few years, I would like to see myself go pro and play as a signed First Team player at Mamelodi Sundowns. Everyone wants to play for a successful Club like Mamelodi Sundowns, I am one of those people,” he concluded.
This season brought a lot of lessons and experiences for the likeable forward. He looks forward to the next season and surpassing his expectations. His introduction to the DDC was laudable and we hope to see him achieve even greater things in the next season.