Current Club: SuperSport United (South Africa)
DOB: 21 September 1998
Birthplace: Gulubane, Botswana
Height: 186 cm (6’1)
Weight: 75 kg (165 lbs)
|Gaborone United (-2018)
|Botswana Premier League
|Township Rollers (2018-2020)
|Botswana Premier League
|SuperSport United (2020-)
|South Africa Premiership
Ditlhokwe is a no-nonsense left-footed central defender who is capable of playing left-back. The first thing that stands out is how quickly he executes his challenges. Sweeps in to disrupt forwards receiving the ball with their back to goal or when opposition players get behind. Generally decent physical attributes with above average speed for his size and a good vertical leap for aerial duels. Improving at tackling the ball to less threatening areas and coming out cleanly with the ball. Very good in the air, particularly when able to square up on long balls.
The Botswana international shows very good potential, but is still adjusting to the technical level of South Africa’s PSL. Offers little going forward as a left-back. Shows signs of ability with long balls and crosses, particularly when playing for Botswana. How Ditlhokwe adjusts to the higher speed of play at club level with his decision-making and positioning this season will determine his ceiling as a player.
General Pros and Cons
+ Rates very well in all aspects of on-ball defending. Tough tackler, skilled in aerial duels, and excellent at marking an individual attacker out of the match.
+ A leader and captain for his country’s national team at a young age. Has shown all the signs of being a positive influence and leader.
– Developing his technical ability on the ball in South Africa. Lacks confidence moving forward on the dribble and offers little attacking threat at full-back position.
– Off-the-ball defending needs improvement at the club level. Aggression can cause him to be caught out of position when speed of play increases.
+ Very good leaper who hangs in the air well for aerial duels.
+ Quick on short sprints and reactions. Good speed for the center-back position.
– Could still develop a little more physically. Strength would likely look below average at a higher level or more physically demanding league.
+ Assured and decisive in the tackle. Already solid at cleanly tackling the ball and clearing out of danger quickly.
+ Very reliable header of the ball early in his career. Excellent at maneuvering himself to head the ball high and wide to less threatening areas.
– Not confident on the dribble. Needs to improve ability to move forward with the ball at his feet.
– While there are some signs of ability with long balls and crosses when playing for Botswana, Dithlokwe is still generally a work-in-progress at his current club level when it comes to confidence with the ball at his feet.
– Lacks touch on his passing and the ability to weight through passes behind the defense for runners.
– Poor crosser of the ball when he attempts service from out wide. Hits hopeful crosses instead of picking out a target.
+ Established leader at the international level by spearheading a stubborn Botswana defense. Captain for Botswana at the age of 22.
+ Keeps things as simple as possible. Won’t get caught taking unnecessary risks or trying to be flamboyant.
– Still adjusting to the general speed of play in South Africa. Needs more games and a stretch of consistent playing time.
– Still has plenty of work to do with his decision making on the ball. Has plenty of confidence but can frustrate his teammates by trying to do too much and going for goal too often.
+ Advanced man-marker. Capable of marking multiple types of forwards including target men and strikers with pace.
+ Does well at positioning himself before the ball arrives to players he marks. Takes up good spots that result in timely interventions and good at wrestling for position to get the upper hand in physical battles.
– Unwilling and timid attacker. Plays strictly as a shutdown full-back when on the left at this stage.
– Still adjusting at the higher speed of club football when it comes to positioning.
A key element of Ditlhokwe’s game is his ability to swiftly intervene to save his fellow defenders or show an opposing forward the necessity of keeping their head on a swivel:
One of the forwards that Ditlhokwe marks in the clip above is Algeria and Ligue 1 forward Andy Delort. It is clear that Delort was left more than a little frustrated and bruised from dealing with Ditlhokwe over 90 minutes. Quick reactions, sweeping tackles, and the ability to leave a mark with his tackles while avoiding an excess of discipline from the referee are themes that stick out early in the Motswana’s career.
So Ditlhokwe’s speed and ability to tackle on the ground is apparent, but how is he in the air? The sample of statistics isn’t too conclusive because of his limited playing time in South Africa, but the video shows that Ditlhokwe is quite advanced:
When he is able to square up on long balls, Thatayaone is excellent at turning his body and head to nod the ball to teammates and to less dangerous areas. At 22, Ditlhokwe shows excellent signs in departments that take many defenders years to refine.
The signs in this set of numbers are encouraging because it shows that Akinyoola remains unafraid to take on defenses even with his team often competing as the underdog. When the competition is more even it allows more opportunities for him to operate in space as opposed to facing smaller teams in Venezuela who will sit in a deeper and more defensive posture. While some of the same issues of efficiency are apparent, Akinyoola’s statistics in South America’s version of the Champions League highlights the strides he has made over the past two years in Venezuelan football.
Evaluation: Too early to move abroad, but talented enough if he can establish himself this season.
From watching Ditlhokwe, there are many aspects of his game that coaches will find valuable. He isn’t the flashiest of players, but his character and leadership is already showing at a young age. I believe that Ditlhokwe’s ability in the departments of defending, heading, and tackling is good enough to help him succeed abroad. It is clear that he will likely be a long-serving captain and anchor for the Botswana national team’s defense.
However, there is still a long way to go for Ditlhokwe for a few reasons. A limited sample of playing time at the club level shows signs of the steep adjustment he is making at SuperSport United. There are positive signs of his technical ability with Botswana and at moments with SuperSport, but Thatayaone still isn’t confident enough at this point in that department to recommend a move to higher levels or to start every match at his club. SuperSport are a side that competes at the top of South Africa’s top division, so there is little margin for error and competition for starting spots. The 2020-21 season presents an opportunity for Ditlhokwe to find the regular starts he craves, and improve on a 7 win, 1 draw, and 3 loss record with the club. If he can establish that starting role, his star could rise very swiftly.