When Rollers lost 2-1 to the Jungle Kings at Molepolole Stadium on January 17, many thought that it was a temporary slump. A 4-0 thrashing of Extension Gunners in the following match reminded many of how merciless Rollers can be. They attacked the hapless Lobatse side from all quarters and set up a thrilling spectacle against their traditional rivals Mochudi Centre Chiefs in their next League match on January 31. Chiefs came out with guns blazing and narrowly beat Rollers 1-0 before an electrifying atmosphere at the National Stadium.
In the month of February, Rollers recorded two consecutive losses to BDF XI and Notwane before suffering their fifth loss of the campaign against relegation-bound BR Highlanders at Serowe Sports Stadium on Wednesday night. In those five defeats, Mapalastina have conceded nine goals and scored a mere two goals in the process. According to football commentators, these statistics prove that there is something wrong going on at Rollers.
Despite a number of unknowns in their squad, Highlanders shocked many football followers when they hammered the defending champions 3-1 before thousands of fans mostly belonging to Rollers at the Central District capital. Following the loss, Rollers remained on 43 points, seven adrift of log leaders Mochudi Centre Chiefs.
It is the game against Highlanders which has left a lot of football followers wondering if the ‘Blue Machine’ has what it takes to defend their title. Can Rollers regain their swagger at this stage?
Former Rollers’ hit man Mmoni ‘States’ Segopolo seems to think otherwise. He told this publication that the defending champions have lost that magic which made them unstoppable in the first half of the season. “It is going to be difficult for Rollers to defend this title. When you chase the championship, it is a crime for you to drop the points unnecessarily. With due to respect to BR Highlanders, Rollers were not supposed to lose that match,” said Segopolo.
He pointed out that following the arrival of four Zebras’ internationals Jerome Ramatlhakwana, Tshepo Motlhabankwe, Noah Maposa and Dirang Moloi during the January transfer window, he thought they would make his former side even better. “Considering their experience and skill, I thought Rollers would be much stronger but it has been the other way round. Things are falling apart and I’m failing to understand what could be the problem,” said a concerned Segopolo.
Radio Botswana commentator Tiroyaone Lepotokisi concurred with Segopolo that it would be difficult for Rollers to pick up the pieces following their defeat to BR Highlanders. Lepotokisi feel that at this stage, with seven matches left, it would be very difficult to remove Magosi from the summit. “The unfortunate thing is that Rollers seem to be trying new combinations at this stage to accommodate their new players who came in January,” said Lepotokisi.
Rollers’ supporter Thapelo Mogami said he has given up on the title following the recent losses. He added that their performances have been pathetic to say the least. “The other thing is that it is easy for the opposition to plan for Rollers. We’re predictable when it comes to starting line-ups and substitutions. The current situation is hurting us as supporters because we want to see our team doing well. At this stage, the title has gone to Mochudi Centre Chiefs which is the most painful thing as a Rollers fan,” said Mogami. He pointed out that though the new arrivals are of high quality, it seems their presence has caused a bit of instability to the team which had not lost a game since October 2013 before their downfall against Police XI. “I don’t know if it’s a coincidence (that Rollers are losing) but the team was doing well without them. Some of the players look unhappy since the new players arrived and the body language speaks volumes,” said Mogami.┬á
While the bookmakers have already ruled out Mapalastina despite seven matches left, only time will decide their fate.