De Sa recently stated that Rusike, since returning early from Zimbabwe’s failed African Cup of Nations in Gabon, has not been mentally fired up at club level, leading to the coach’s decision to omit him from the starting line-up in the last few games.
However, the 26-year-old, who was De Sa’s go-to man last season, brought the Team of Choice back to life against Ea Lla Koto as he flicked home the equaliser with the outside of his foot in the 65th minutes to bag his fourth goal of the season after Mohammed Anas had opened the scoring for Stars in the first-half.
Lebogang Maboe eventually went on to net the winner in the final 10 minutes as he turned the ball home after Rusike’s initial effort had rattled the post, giving De Sa his first win as Team of Choice coach.
A relieved De Sa admitted after the game that it was risky decision to field Rusike, who replaced a tiring Mohau Mokate after he had also started in the 4-1 loss to SuperSport United last week.
"To be honest, I think it [the win] was deserved and I thought we were better than them [Free State Stars], especially after they scored, we were playing pretty well," De Sa told reporters after the game.
“We created chances and we looked in control of the game in the first 20, 25 minutes until we conceded.
"We made a change [at half-time], we brought Evans in and Evans is not hundred percent there yet, but we thought ‘let's take a risk’ and Mokate was looking a bit tired and it paid off.
"We then changed the formation slightly and we let Kwanda [Mngonyama] go a bit on the right-hand side and we just played with the back three and it kind of worked."
With his first win in four matches, the former Ajax Cape Town coach saw his side enter the top eight and said they have now changed the focus and start to look forward, instead of back over their shoulders.
"This result enables us to look ahead of us not behind us, and it puts you in the position where you now look at the teams above us not worried about teams behind us," he stressed.
"Hopefully we can focus on the glass half-full and not the glass half-empty this time. But now we’re there with those teams around position six, seven and eight, so we’ve got a chance [to go further].”
De Sa, who has in the past experienced the Soweto Derby and Cape Derby, will experience the best that KZN has to offer when they visit bitter rivals Golden Arrows at Kwamashu's Princess Magogo Stadium.