“I trust this group, they will be better and stronger next season” – Coach Rulani Mokwena.

Mamelodi Sundowns exited the CAF Champions League with a 2-2 draw to holders Wydad AC in the second-leg semi finals in Pretoria. Themba Zwane and Peter Shalulile scored second-half goals but the North African team pulled two goals from set piece plays and went on to advance to the finals of the prestigious competition courtesy of the away goal rule that favored them from the previous scoreline of 0-0 in the first leg at the Stade Mohamed V.

“[This was] A typical Champions League game, two very good sides. I think I have to congratulate the football club for having a good run in the Champions League, it’s a difficult competition. Congratulations to Wydad on progressing and wishing them all the best in the final. We end with having won a lot of hearts but of course not good enough, so we’ve got to galvanize strength and pick ourselves up and go again next season.” Said Masandawana’s Head Coach Rulani Mokwena after the match.

The Brazilians had very presentable opportunities in the opening stages of each half and took the lead twice in the game, but an own goal from midfielder Mothobi Mvala in the closing stage of the encounter sealed victory for the visitors. Coach Rulani expressed admiration for his troops despite the disappointment of not going through to the next round, he said:

“They know I love them more actually today, in the good and the bad we stick together. That’s why I’m here and that’s why the club has entrusted me with this responsibility. It’s not so much in the good moments, it’s actually in the bad moments that I’ve got to step up. First [I must] take the responsibility then try to allow the players to feel it, we’ve got to feel it because it’s the pain that will push us to the next level.”

“What I can say is that I am extremely proud of the players. I am proud that in a very difficult competition we’ve finished unbeaten against some strong opponents, but of course there’s an element of disappointment which probably overrides. Maybe it’s only time that will reveal whether or not we are making the necessary progress to be able to be good enough and maybe reach a level of perfection as needed, to be able to compete and fiercely compete for this competition. But I trust the process, I trust this group, they’ll be better and stronger next season, they’ll have more experience and we will go again and try to make this dream a reality.”

Coach Rulani went on to pronounce the desire and determination to win the African trophy: “We will continue with this dream and we will win the Champions League, but it might not be this season of course. It might not be the next season but eventually we will win the Champions League and we will win it playing the way of the club, its supporters and its culture because if you want to change the style of football then you’ve got to take out quite a lot of what speaks to this club.”

At the beginning of the new year, Downs made an announcement that a new coach was appointed in order to improve and help the team to achieve success with set-pieces, following the manner in which Wydad booked their ticket into the finals, Coach Rulani shared light on the importance of the new department added.

“We have identified one of the major strengths as to why the champion’s league trophies have gone to the north [and] it is because of that [set-pieces], but it’s not the only reason. Part time what I think was a big determining factor was the experience and you could see it, but that is not something that you have to go and buy. It’s not something that you can get a coach in to deal with, that is something that the players have got to go through and learn from and for sure next season we will be stronger.”

“What is clearly evident is the fact that we haven’t been in the semifinals of a very difficult and important competition for the last three years, and so the gains are evident even though they are marginal. The mistakes are evident and even though they are marginal, but this game that we play in this competition in particular doesn’t allow for mistakes because you get punished.”

13 Responses
  1. Mfana

    When talking about experience,then that’s a cheap excuse my coach,Jali and Zungu are experienced individuals on the middle of the park.But the ugliest and most toxic part is your favoritism.Maybe the inexperienced part is only you Rulani.Sundowns have Mashego who can mark an opponent, use his head to clear the ball and run with or without the ball, but u choose your extraordinary player in Modiba who can’t head the ball like he did yesterday and how many times he’s been dispossessed and cost the team?Again when Sundowns scored the first goal u had the opportunity to put on Zungu&Sirino but u opted for a selfish young boy in Mailula but this 2 has a vast experience of what is needed to slow the game,again u gave Casablanca the freedom of Loftusversfeld with marking and picking up the opponent that was neither here nor there in front of your 18 area no one was closing the gaps around that area except Mokoena.You gave Mkhulise more than 70 minutes a person who was not busy with any tackles,yesterday we lost the game maybe because u were on the bench yesterday but had it was someone else Sundowns should have progressed to the finals,u r very naive&arrogant my coach and its your downfall.You will keep on praising North Africans when u had a chance to take out AL Ahly but u played to their gallery by fielding the strongest lineup against AL Hilal but knowing how these Arabic clubs cheat were they going to give u that favor?On that part u became their puppet.This was a year to win the Champions League not next season or the other,Sundowns was not short of any material to conquer Africa,just tell your employer to arrange a longer stay as u think Sundowns is your small project.But if it is said I must choose a coach for next season or that season I would choose you but you having a lot of favoritism and its your biggest downfall.

  2. Muzi Kunene

    What a bitter pill to swallow even now I’m still digesting what transpired yesterday and truth to be told I’m really sad.
    What I would say there are two things that derailed us from winning the Champs League according to my analysis even though those two things are part of football, namely is our Var here in Africa and lastly the away goal goal rule,if the above can be corrected Downs will dominate for many years to come on Champs League.
    Last week in Morroco Shalulile scored a nice goal but a Var disputed that it was an offside and again he was manhandled facing the goalkeeper but we didn’t get a penalty or that defender got a red card,come to away goal rule,a visiting team was playing delaying tactics and faking too many injuries because they knew its over but if there’s no away goal rule like they scrapped it in Europe Downs would have scored the third goal and I hope next season it will be scrapped so that we can see offensive football till the the final whistle.
    Hard luck to our team We can’t falter you including Mvala those things happened to football and I salute you for the good performance throughout,Kby forever

    1. Muzi Kunene

      Its heartbreaking when people now blame Rhulani for our so called bowed out on Champs League, not long ago it was the same people whom were telling us that Downs are too good for African football they want to play with European teams talking about the same players now they seems useless to them and some are talking about Jali the very same player who costed us a penalty against Pedro of Angola on dying minutes.
      There was nothing wrong with the line up one thing we must pray to be scrapped is an away goal rule qha akukho okunye,kby forever

    2. rendi

      The is only one biggest mistake that Rulani made .Why did he play Mkhulise when we needed intelligent players to replace Maema.Mkhulise was just adding numbers as far as am concerned.Either Sirino,Mailula and Ralani should have started instead of Mkhulise.We knew that Wydad was going to defend deep in their own half but we started with Mkhulise who is not intelligent enough to help Themba to break down why dad defense. The biggest loser is Rulani

      1. Thulas

        Indeed coach we had a good run in this competition. Experience was the deciding factor for the whole team. Let’s go again next season. Hope we can reach the final. Hard luck boys, in you I trust. KaboYellow Masandawana

  3. Makhosonke

    Rulani and the entire technical team are very I support them, 1 thing I hate about Rulani is favoritism, Rulani can go very far I mean very far, and he can break lot of rocords sets by Big Man Pitso, but his attitude of favoritism is going to delay him or kill him… Modiba and Mvala are good players but not for Sundowns, these good man are costing the team… I’m not talking the own goal he scored I can take as a mistake…but how many mistakes he made before the yesterday one, dangerous mistakes same like Modiba… Putting Mailula yesterday I don’t what was the plan of Sir, Mailula is good but he was not needed yesterday because you don’t have Malema and Allende… We going again next year Sir R please don’t be a puppet of Arabs be a man, proud black child

    1. Mfana

      I found one thing about all the supporters above, they support the coach except one blemish.But in reality Rulani Mokoena we love u,y you r part of us,you are Sundowns family we have one feeling that we wish you success at this club for so many many years to come hoping that you won’t be pulled down by our comments on this platform,its frustrations combined with love for this beautiful football club called Mamelodi Sundowns.There are so many hiccups and frustrations that took place on the course of the season like long term injuries to people that were very promising at the start of the campaign like an injury to Nasir,Shalulie,Zungu,Botouil,and can u imagine how far would Shalulile &Nasir would be had there been no injuries in terms of scoring goals for Sundowns?Again winning the league with 7 games kind of killed our rhythm and we lost focus because we should have rotated the players to keep harmony among the players and that’s what the coach did,something very nice became our disadvantage at the end.Because the intensity of the game &the way we played changed because u can’t change the fact that all the remaining games were dead rubber even though we didn’t lose but we knew nothing will happen we r Champions.Anyway let’s focus next season to continue where we left off by breaking the records for all the good reasons Kaboyelo we remain.

  4. Nephat Ncube

    I know that we are all hurting after ” so near and yet so far “” situation we had on Saturday. It might sound harsh to mention names of players about their errors… but when the same players keep on making the same costly errors and yet they are constantly fielded it becomes a problem. Factual Reference points against Al Alhy Modiba lost the ball and they scored in the same game the second goal came on his side, as for Mvala in the first leg in Casablanca he made a costly mistake luckily we were not punished, he made a similar error against Stellenbosch and they scored. On Saturday, the first goal, again came on Modiba’s side ball watching and a defender came running all the way to score, he lacked awareness and for Mvala that header really …that ball was going safely into Ronwen’s hands but he took it away and diverted it the net, the sad part he is always in the starting 11 ahead of natural defenders such as Grant and Rushin who in my opinion are more composed than him. Mvala is jittery, period. They are might be very good players but I think the positions they are deployed in are sensitive positions which require natural players. Modiba is more effective in the midfield when he tucks in but defensively very poor. Mvala must just go back to midfield and let Kekana, Rushin, Musa and Brian compete for the central defence position. I must also highlight that one is not sayinf this to blame anyone it is just an honest observation from a supporter who is very disappointed in not qualifying for the final. We had 3 trophies last season and 1 trophy this season, can we rate it as a success or retrogression. Food for thought members

  5. Peter Mashala

    We must play players in their correct positions instead of converting them into something they are not if we want to win this cup next season.

  6. Mfana

    Ncube my member I can say we acquired an overweight Sipho Mbule and Bongani Zungu,then again we acquired an injured defender in Botouil.Then it was difficult to integrate with the team.Then Allende was adjusted to a deeplying midfield because Jali constantly on the bench and Tebogo Mokena was on his place or the position previously occupied by Coetzee of which he hasn’t adjusted fully.Then injuries to Kekana,De Reuck,Shalulile,Nasir&again a decision to have one single coach instead of 3.Maybe the one of 3 coaches was the one working wonders because we won 3 cups.Losing MTN8 I can say Pirates was better prepared than us,then Stellenbosch knocked us in the Nedbank cup of which we can it was our own mistakes at the back not to say Stellenbosch were all over us.I never saw Casablanca beating us at Loftusversfeld but maybe having a red card in Morocco was a game changer because believe u me in Casablanca we had better ball possession than the home with their crowd on the stands.Wydad is just our voodoo,hoodoo team at the moment I don’t think they are on our league.I thought The North-South Derby was on the cards but again fortune was not on our side.I can’t say we regressed though we didn’t win the treble we are still the strongest team if you can recall we scored 2 goals in Cairo against AL Ahly and we scored 5 in South Africa. I can say we are still the most feared team on the Continent you can see the way people celebrate once the final whistle blows if they win it’s like an opponent won a World Cup. Though we did not win 3 trophies I can say it’s not a setback.Thats how I see.

  7. Mzimela

    Big problem we like complain we thought we have more knowledge than team coache Rulan is been good whole season the things just change over night Sundown loose game because rules and regulation and 1 must win nothing wrong was done Mokwena lets accept lost party of the game

  8. Nephat Ncube

    Mzimela my man, there is nothing wrong in voicing our concerns and pointing out where we think things went south. This team was supposed to qualify for the final but 2 errors from our own players cost us that place, those are facts of what happened. It is tough luck, but for how long are we going to say we are learning. Rhulani has been part of the Champions League since the days of Pitso, we have Manqoba who also has been there even before we won it in 2016, Steve has the experience of being a national team coach, so in essence we have experienced coaches who should have learnt lessons from previous campaigns. Yes we might say some players do not have the experience, but most of our players are national team players. My opinion is that we lost to a team that was more determined to win but also the away goal rule killed us, playing the whole tournament and fall out on the last hurdle without losing a single match …. sad story

  9. jero

    Morning yellow family trust that we are all well and we are going to have peaceful break and recharge our batteries for next coming season.it will be great joy to have more of us attending games and have 70% of attendants on the stand.
    To our players and Technical Team we thank you for great smiles you give us and your determination to win and The respect for this Organization. Analyzing our season it has high and lows .On low we did not defend or be in the knockout final to defend our cups. Secondly we had a lot of injuries and we did not start the season well that indeed had negative impact to our planning. The most heart breaking moment is a passing of our own loved one Mr Gold Finger may his soul rest in peace.
    On high we improved a lot the way we play after Rulani was appointed as head Coach acknowledging that without Manqoba and Steve ,Robson and the rest of Technical Team trainers and analyzing department support He was not going to do it alone .We also defendant our league trophy and lots of Youngesters were given the chance for the first time since in the days of Mambushi ,Shy, fire .themba and many more. Champions league we went one step ahead which we have to applause after many years of getting knock of in the last 8.I know lots of us we are disappointed of not reaching the final rightly so we are allowed to be angry and ask questions. I have comfort myself by saying it was not meant to be by looking at what happened strange things.We lost Mr Alex and went to play in Morocco had 2 red cards that is not familiar with Sundowns .I believe we lost the game there playing with 9 players it gave us wrong Ideas that our defends was superior .Thats why I blame Neo, Allande ,Mthobi , William ,Modiba but mostly Technical Team how you can not defend your led in the last 15 minutes and you could see our defents was struggling they could not deal with those high balls Mvala was panicking before they score that goal.Several times our crosses where high which it suited them instead of hitting the ball nice and low on the ground.But than we move on it is in the past we tried, let us work harder in future.
    What I observed though is that right footed center back whose comfortable on his feet and on the ball and fast in taking off will help a lot .I am sorry to mention the names but Mandela Mvala Kekane and De rock they are the same.
    I feel like our strike from Chippa should be recall deadly on air physically strong skillful and play with both fees.the 4 of them Sha Sha,Cash Money,Nasir and him they will bang goals